Category Archives: Bioacoustics and Telemetry

Bioacoustics Team Report 2016 – 2017

Acoustic Sampling of Species in The Costa Rican Rainforest

Abstract:

The Forman School Rainforest Project is a 24 year running program dedicated to rainforest education and field biology. The philosophy of this program is to contribute to science well as needed information on endangered species. It consists of different teams with a specific goal for data collecting: Spider Silk Team, Mammals Team, Reptiles and Amphibians Team, Birds Team and the Bioacoustics Team. The Bioacoustics Team is tasked with collecting and cataloging as many of the thousands of resident species sounds as possible to provide acknowledgement of the health of the targeted environment. This sound data will later go to The Macaulay Library, located inside the Lab of Ornithology in Cornell University. The Macaulay Library is the world’s premier scientific archive of natural history audio, video, and photographs. The main goal is being able to extend Cornell’s Macaulay Sound Library with new calls and or new species.

This year, the bioacoustics team was paired with the birds team in hopes of collecting more sounds and make it easier to record data. The collection took place in Sarapiqui, Costa Rica from March 1st to March 10th. The team recorded a total of 58 species, Most of our recordings consisted in birds species, yet, because the team went on research hikes along other team it was possible to catch sounds beyond Cornell’s hitlist.

Introduction:

Bioacoustics is a cross disciplinary science that studies how animal sounds are produced and how these influence the behavior of creatures around them. It includes within its scope: animal communication and associated behavior, and effects of human-made noise on animals. The sounds produced by animals have relevance to many aspects of ecology, environmental science, and evolutionary biology. Recording and listening to wildlife helps us learn and understand the communication between species and different callings. Bioacoustics uses digital technology, including equipment and software, to record and the sounds of species around the world. The sounds of any natural place are completely unique and can reveal important information about the health of that location. Acoustic sampling can help conservationists gather evidence to see if conservation efforts are working. The sounds of any natural place are completely unique and can reveal important information about the health of that location. Acoustic sampling can help conservationists gather evidence to see if conservation efforts are working.

All the recordings collected by the Bioacoustics Team are sent to Cornell University’s Macaulay Library. It is the biggest archive of sounds, containing an estimated 75% of the global avian species. The database provides a useful and accessible tool for scientists, with numerous scientific publications making use of the sound and video specimens. Recent studies suggest that individually distinctive vocalizations found in many avian species can be used in population monitoring. The animal species intended to be recorded are animals under the taxonomic classes: Aves, Mammalia, Reptilia, Amphibia and Insecta.

Methods and Equipment

When working in the bioacoustics area, it’s important to have good audio quality. The equipment we used is specialized for sound gathering and recording, which made our mission of sound data possible.

 

Parabolic Dish (Microphone)

  • Sennheiser ME62 Omnidirectional Microphone

One of the best tools used to record for nice, isolated sounds. It’s composed by multiple tools put on together to create the complete set of the parabolic dish. Mainly, to uses an omnidirectional microphone which is connected to the parabola along with a little wind protector in the middle. They work by amplifying sound that comes from the direction that they are being pointed at, reflecting the sound waves to a focal point in the middle of the dish. They do that because their curve is a parabolic curve, thus all sounds coming in are amplified which are then recorded clean and isolated. Meanwhile the unwanted sounds reflect at a different angle and leave the dish without being amplified.

 

Shotgun Long Microphone

  • Rycote Softie Windshield
  • Rycote Pistol Grip

The shotgun mic act to be slightly directional. They cancel out sound waves coming from the sides and let in the ones coming from the front, giving then a little directionality but not as much as the parabola. The windshield that was utilized was a softie from Rycote. Windshield prevent air from interrupting the recording. The longer the hair the better it can stop wind. It does that in the same way that animal hair works; it traps layers of air around the microphone. For animals, it keeps them warm, for the mic, once the air is trapped, additional air can’t get in.

Marantz PMD661 MKII Digital Audio Recorder

The Marantz digital audio recorder takes in all of the audio that is being recorded.

  • Record mono/stereo audio directly to SD/SDHC cards for virtually any audio capture application
  • MP3 and uncompressed WAV formats up to 24-bit / 96kHz
Sony MDR-7506 Headphones
Porta Brace Audio Recorder Case

TABLE 1: List of equipment used by the Bioacoustics Team in order to record sound data.

Methods

For the achievement of high quality audio and isolated recordings it’s essential to have techniques for the best results. Methods are used or created depending on the type of environment and natural factors that could affect the recordings. While it is crucial that these factors are considered in the recording methods for better recordings, the location and direction of the sound source may make these factors certain. Even in these cases, the sound would be recorded with attempts to eliminate unwanted noise, and eventually discarded if the recording is not wanted.

  • Call Back
    1. The technique of calling and playing back pre-recorded calls of species, prey species or competitive species has been used in studies to demonstrate or proof the species behavior. Callback techniques work best in open habitats and enable researches to perform interesting behavioral experiments. “Call back” technique included our trip leader Wendy Welshans to imitating a Howler Monkey’s morning call.
  • Pishing
  • It refers to a group of noises that birders make in the hope of attracting birds. Making any small, repetitive noise in an effort to attract birds can be considered a type of pishing. While these noises are obviously not bird sounds, there are several theories as to why birds will respond. The raspy, rough quality of a pish is similar to alarm or scolding calls from many small birds. Those birds are accustomed to mobbing together to chase away larger predators. Many birders also believe, after watching birds respond to their pishing, that some species of birds have a natural curiosity and playfulness and simply enjoy investigating unknown noises.”

 

  • Alarm Call
    1. This was our most successful technique, and it was the reason why the birds and bioacoustics teams were combined this year. In the process of getting the birds from the nets and processing them for Cornell University’s Ornithology Lab and National Audubon Society, birds naturally gave an alarm call.

Results

The identified species were not intended to be recorded. The team was guided by Cornell’s hitlist. The hitlist is a list of some species that are in the macaulay library that are the main goal for the team. It served as guide to maintain wide awareness of where this species were. This year a total of 50+ clean recording were identified and are ready to be sent through ebird for Cornell’s Lab of Ornithology. Few species from the hitlist were identified making those recording valuable data for the Macaulay Library. A number of other recordings had species that were not identified. The unidentified species recorded, thus, could not be given a recording quantity in the Macaulay Library.Most of the the recording that were collected were not meant to be targeted (total of 50+ recordings.) Nevertheless, a total of five species from the hitlist were able to be identified, making them the most valuable contributions to the Macaulay Library’s archive from the team. A number of other recordings had species that were not identified. The unidentified species recorded, thus, could not be given a recording quantity in the Macaulay Library.

In relation to last year’s weather, the project had an unfortunate encounter with heavy rain, total of 7in or 17.78cm. This interfered with the data collection, limiting time and recordings. Methods for preventing the equipment from getting wet and continue data recording were taken, but resulted unsuccessful. Overall, while the quality of recordings did not yield the ​most valuable recordings to Macaulay Library, these recording, nonetheless, contribute both rarely documented species and high quality recordings in an area of great diversity to the Macaulay Library.

Table 2: The table above shows true data of acoustic samples from the species that were captured during March 1st – March 10th. The first column shows the common name for the species while the second column shows their scientific name (latin: genus and species.) The third column represents the number of recordings already registered in the Macaulay Library. The bold rows signify Cornell’s hitlist.

Discussion

Most of the the recording that were collected were not meant to be targeted (total of 50+ recordings.) Nevertheless, a total of five species from the hitlist were able to be identified, making them the most valuable contributions to the Macaulay Library’s archive from the team. A number of other recordings had species that were not identified. The unidentified species recorded, thus, could not be given a recording quantity in the Macaulay Library.

In relation to last year’s weather, the project had an unfortunate encounter with heavy rain, total of 7in or 17.78cm. This interfered with the data collection, limiting time and recordings. Methods for preventing the equipment from getting wet and continue data recording were taken, but resulted unsuccessful. Overall, while the quality of recordings did not yield the ​most valuable recordings to Macaulay Library, these recording, nonetheless, contribute both rarely documented species and high quality recordings in an area of great diversity to the Macaulay Library.

Acknowledgements

The author would like to thank Ms. Wendy Welshans for her invaluable contribution to many aspects of team’s work, as well as Mr. Sean Graesser for his help with species identification. The author would also like to acknowledge the birds team leader Kseniya Kotova for contributing on the data collecting for bioacoustics and making acoustic sampling easier and more successful. Final thanks to Eli Del Castillo, former guide for the bioacoustics team, for helping with the organization of data and a mentor in the recording field.

Citations

Hausheer, J. E. (2015, September 29). How Can Bioacoustics Help Conserve Biodiversity? Retrieved May 22, 2017, from http://blog.nature.org/science/explainer/how-can-bioacoustics-help-conserve-biodiversity/

LaRocca Stravelle, Z., Silver, P., & Keilty, A. (2016). Bioacoustic Collection of Animal Species in the Costa Rican Rainforest. 1-9. Retrieved May 20, 2017.

Macdonald, D. W., & Loveridge, A. J. (2010). Biology and Conservation of Wild Felids. Oxford University Press.

“The Cornell Lab.” ​ML: Frequently Asked Questions. Web. 23 May 2016. <​http://macaulaylibrary.org/faq​>.

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Bioacoustics and Bird Team

Bioacoustics focuses in the recording of species, no matter whether it’s terrestrial or aerial.

The Bioacoustics and Birds Team uses a software called Raven Pro Software to check the highs and lows of the recordings. It keeps the awareness of the sound to be below 12 gain.

Materials:

In bioacoustics is important to have quality audio equipment to have an optimal sound recording of the animals.

  1. Parabolic Dish (Telinga Pro Universal ME)
  2. Long shotgun Microphone (Sennheiser ME67)/Windshield (Rycote Softie)
  3. Omnidirectional Microphone Capsule (Sennheiser ME62)
  4. Headphones (Sony MDR-7506)
  5. Digital Audio Recorder (Marantz PMD 661 MKII)

Setting Up:

 

  1. Set up the digital recorder by turning it on.
  2. Once it’s powered on, proceed to insert the headphones in the “phones”  plug of the recorder.
  3. Next, grab an omnidirectional microphone and insert it inside the parabolic dish. Check that the microphone is not fully inserted, thus there need to be a space between the surface and the microphone (quarter of finger)
  4. Proceed to connect the parabolic dish in the digital recorder in the mono setting.
  5. Press the “Rec” button for a test check.
  6. Once everything is settled, it is ready to record data!

 

Methods:

  1. Target a sound and listen for a bit to find the area where its sound is the strongest
  2. Recommended to take safety recordings.
  3. Begin approach while still recording
  4. Mind the gain. Make sure it’s not above 12 gain, if so, turn down.
  5. Once the recording is finished, begin closing statement by naming the species (if identified), date and time of day, location, habitat description, and the distance to the animal.

 

-Silvanna Najri and Kseniya Kotova

 

2016 Bioacoustics Team

Imagine a world where scientists have access to every sound of every species on the planet at the click of a button. Imagine what that data could be used for in the field of biology and conservation. Tremendous results could be derived from the sounds of animals, ranging from the anthropogenic impact on vast ecosystems to determining the biomass of a given creature.

This is one of the ultimate goals in the field of bioacoustics and it all starts with the digital collection of quality audio. It is the 2015-2016 Forman Rainforest Project’s Bioacoustics Team that will attempt to achieve this collection for the betterment of the rainforest and the world. Since 1992, the team has been recording sounds of various species in the Costa Rican rainforest for the database at the Macaulay Library of Cornell University. Our goal this year is to continue submitting recordings to the library, but with improved recording equipment. We will be using Cornell’s sound analysis software called Raven to compare and analyze the recordings in the field, which will allow us to look over the quality and continuity of the recordings. We will continue to build better collection and microphone techniques for the optimum sound when recording.

Aidan Keilty, Patrick, and Zachary LaRocca-Stravalle ’17 will do their best to advise the Bioacoustics Team this year. While bioacoustics may seem unnecessary now, it plays a major part in the surveillance of the ecosystem’s health and makes it easier to take population inventories without displacing animals. The 2015-2016 Bioacoustics team will work to contribute to the vast repository of recordings to obtain such a goal and make the world a better place for all animals.

 

Methods and Procedures

Methods and Procedures

Bioacoustics is all about the recording of the animals. Recording is basically the same procedure whether the species is terrestrial, cursorial, or arboreal. Fossorial and aquatic species will likely not be recorded in this expedition.

  1. When recording, first, target a sound.
  2. Next, rotate the microphone 90 degrees to the right or left and listen for a second, repeat in the same direction until finding the area where the target sound is the strongest.
  3. Next, take a safety recording of about 2 to 3 minutes.
  4. After the safety recording, begin the approach (while still recording).
  5. Half the distance between the microphone and the species, check the gain to make sure the recorder is taking in nothing above 12 gain, if so, turn down the gain.
  6. If the species is still a good distance away, meaning that the gain has not reached above 12, and half the distance again; repeat as many times as needed while simultaneously continuing to check the gain.
  7. Feeling that the recording is of sufficient quality, make the closing statement. For the closing statement state the name of the species (if identified), the date, the time of day, the location, the GPS coordinates and elevation, the temperature, the behavioral context of sound, the natural sound or response to to playback (if playback, announce on tape), the number of individuals, the habitat description, the recording equipment (the type of audio recorder, microphone, if used, filter position), and the distance to the animal.

When recording around water, the procedure of recording basically is the same, but the water must be taken into account.

  1. First, target a sound.
  2. Next, rotate the microphone 90 degrees to the right or left and listen for a second, repeat in the same direction until finding the area where the target sound is the strongest and the sound of water is the lowest.

When recording around water, there are some dead spots where the water is less audible. These dead spots depend on the type of water that is being recorded near. If recording around a deep stream or river, meaning a stream or river where the water level is below ground level, the dead zone lies in a parabola beside the ditch, as seen in the picture. Beneath the parabola is the dead zone, where the disrupting sound of the stream does not reach, almost like rain with an umbrella, the ditch acts as an inhibiting object, that distorts the sound waves so that they travel vertically and then more diagonally, rather than horizontally. If recording around a waterfall, stream, or river, and there is a large object such as a tree, or large rock, between the species being recorded, and the source of the disruptive noise, stand on the species side of the rock, tree, or inhibiting object with the recorder and as close to said object as possible, to be sure that as little disruptive noise as possible inhibits the recording.

The 2014-2015 Bioacoustics and Telemetry Team uses a software called Raven Pro Software, designed by Cornell University. This software helps to see if the recordings are good. The idea behind the team using Raven Software is to see the highs and lows of the recording and make sure that they are not above or below 12 or -12 gain. The Team’s use of Raven has evolved since last year. This year, the Bioacoustics and Telemetry team is not using Raven to edit the recordings. Cornell wants the recording as it was recorded to be sure that the sound of the animal is in its purest form.

The Bioacoustics and Telemetry team was derived from a previous team on the Forman School Rainforest Project, Project O, or Orthopterans. Project BT is only in its second year. Last year’s team focused a lot on Orthopterans. This year, Orthopterans will be taking a bit of a back seat. Although Orthopterans will be a satellite subject to the project, they are still a very important aspect of the project. Orthopterans are essential to the Rainforest and the study of Orthopterans and their health reflects the rainforest’s health and it’s biodiversity. The idea is to get recordings of the Orthopterans in captivity without them feeling as if their in captivity. If the Orthopterans feel as if their in captivity, they will make distress calls, rather than their natural communication. In order to allow the insects to feel at ease, there needs to be a container made that simulates their natural habitat.

Telemetry:

In this project, telemetry is the procedure of collaring and tracking an animal. Telemetry aids in recording by giving a person the ability to find a certain animal in its natural habitat in order to record and document the natural behavior of said animal without human contact.

  1. First, attach a transmitter to a captured animal, be sure that it fits well enough not to fall off, but does not harm the animal.
  2. Next, setup the antenna and and the receiver in order to track the animal.
  3. Let the animal go.
  4. Next, track the animal.
  5. Begin tracking by closing eyes and moving the antenna horizontally, 360˚.
  6. Stop the antenna where the signal sounds loudest.
  7. Next, move the antenna in a vertical motion.
  8. Stop the antenna where the signal sounds loudest.
  9. Open eyes and walk in the direction of the loudest signal.
  10. Stop every 10 steps and repeat steps 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9. (alter step 5 and only rotate horizontally 180˚)
  11. As the species gets closer, turn down the RF gain in order to get a more accurate reading on the species location.
  12. Once the animal has been found, record it and attempt to get the collar back.

There are two possible signals. The first signal is called an up signal, this signal will be variant and means the animal is active, or moving. The second type of signal is a down signal. A down signal is a constant beat, this means the animal has stopped, whether it be sleeping dead, or the collar fell off, or it means that there is a short signal.

Thank You, Cornell University

Thank you so much Cornell University for lending us your Sony PBR/400 Parabola dish. We have been practicing our recording techniques. We have also been studying more about sound waves so that we can better understand how to drown out certain sounds naturally as to not take anything away from the animal’s sound.

Bioacoustics and Telemetry Team of 2014-2015

Introduction

 

Think of a drone flying over the Costa Rican Rainforest, recording what it hears and sending it back to some guy in Arizona. Imagine that guy in Arizona being able to take a population inventory of a species just by sitting and listening, no stress of capturing animals, no cost of travel, no extremely expensive equipment, just one guy, listening. This is what the Bioacoustics and Telemetry Team is working toward. The 2014-2015 Bioacoustics and Telemetry Team is Tyler Dunn, Peter Newmark, and Brooke Shemwell. The Forman Rainforest Project’s Bioacoustics and Telemetry Team will be collecting the sounds of a variety of species for the database at the Macaulay Library at Cornell. So, here are the basics, bioacoustics is the sound that animals make. The telemetry component of the project allows the us to track larger animals like mammals back to their home so that we can record them. Cornell has designed a sound anaylisis software called Raven which will be used to compare and anlize the recordings in the field. This will allow us to take a closer look at each recording to make sure we have caught the sound in its entirety. The Bioacoustics and Telemetry Team is also learning how to retrieve sounds at optimum recording quality by using different techniques when it comes to the recorder’s microphone settings and placement when recording. Taking recordings of animals might seem quaint and unimportant right now, but the Bioacoustics and Telemetry Team plan to save the rainforest by making it a lot easier to take population inventories instead of through the collection of displaced animals. The 2015 Bioacoustics and Telemetry Team is truly aiming to make the world a better place for all animals.

 

 

Goals for this year:

*add to the Macaulay Library

*Record animals in different times throughout the day to get a better understanding of the recordings and the animals behaviors.

 

Objectives Before the Rainforest

*Familiarize ourselves with Raven and learn how to make strong recordings

*Complete the Methods and Equipment Paper

 

 

 

Methods and Materials 2014

As our departure day nears, project BT (Bioacoustics and Telemetry) is working every day to finalize our methods and materials.  We have come up with multiple new ways of recording that we will be trying at the Forman School base which will give us new measurable variables for our research. Our team leader, Shawn Mullen, has bought multiple crickets from a pet store which are staying in an animal cracker jar. We have ordered corrugated plastic which we will use to make different environments for the crickets. The new parabolic mic that our wonderful Wendy Welshans was able to get us will be used to get stronger recordings from Orthoptera.  We may even be able to get a recording of a bullet ant’s call. After recordings are taken, they will be processed into Raven Software on a Glacier computer.  Thanks to the computer, we will be able to process recordings in the field without risk of loss to our data. The team has ordered multiple new field guides for identification. The telemetry equipment we will be using is mostly the same as it was last year, but we did add a very small collar so we can track more species.

Project BT 2013-2014

This year we are revamping Project O (Orthoptera). This years team: Coleman Walker, Jay Hopkins, Nate Langh, and our team leader Shawn Mullen are working to transcend the perceived limits of Costa Rican Bioacoustic Recording. We are still keeping the focus on Orthopterans and recording their calls, but our team is diversifying our focus to recording not only Orthopterans, but Birds,  Amphibians, and Mammals as well, adding to the Macaulay Sound Library at Cornell University. We are collaborating with the other groups and forming lists of attractive species that the sound library needs for when we take our journey into the feild later this coming February.

Our jobs, as a team, this year is ambitious. Practically starting from scratch, Project BT,  is collecting Field guides and familiarizing ourselves with the tools, insects, and software. We are also adapting several Orthoptera recording techniques, and doing extensive research to be ready for Costa Rica. Our research today aids future researching processes. To one day be able to enter any habitat, record the surroundings, run the sound through a database, and be able to see a diagnostic of the habitats heath is very exciting and only a few years from becoming reality.

Project O had been running for 3 years, however now we are changing it to Bioacoustics & Telemetry.

Our Goals this year:

  1. to add to the Macaulay Library’s birds, reptiles, and amphibian sound database by working with the other groups and what they catch while in the field.
  2. to discover a new method of recording and identifying Orthopterins and other sound producing insects of Costa Rica, hopefully adding to the Macaulay Library sound database.
  3. to use the science of radio telemetry to track many of the recorded birds, reptiles, amphibian, and Orthopterins to better document their habitat borders.

There is a lot the world doesn’t know about earth’s beautiful Rainforests. Peering through an open door of infinite possibility is a daunting thing; but we cannot turn back, don’t want to turn back. Follow us through the door, we will have a lot to share.

Bioacoustics and Telemetry

Orthoptera and Odonata Methods Paper


Data gathering