July 16, 2013
Internet Technology Records, Preserves Sounds Of Species
[LISTEN TO AUDIO: Sound Of The Eleutherodactylus juanariveroi Frog]
Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com - Your Universe OnlineIt has been historically difficult to monitor and identify the thousands of species living in tropical ecosystems. But using newly developed recording systems, researchers are now doing so much more easily.
Using automated recording stations placed in natural habitats, researchers have captured the sounds of tropical birds, monkeys, frogs and insects throughout Puerto Rico and Costa Rica, analyzing the sounds to determine the species concerned.
With growing threats from deforestation and climate change, this new technology is allowing researchers to study a much wider area in hopes of finding a way to preserve nature's threatened species. The technology, which combines both software and in-situ hardware, makes it much cheaper and easier for researchers to monitor extensive areas, delivering results in real-time over the Internet.
Dr. Mitchell Aide and Dr. Carlos Corrada-Bravo, both of the University of Puerto Rico, led a team of scientists in the development of the technology to collect, process and analyze audio recordings in real-time. The 'ARBIMON Recording System' is capable of recording 144 one-minute tracks per day in remote tropical sites and sends the data in real-time to a base station as far as 25 miles away. The recordings are then forwarded to the project server in Puerto Rico where they are processed and made available to the public via the Internet, all in under a minute.
The system has been tested in Puerto Rico and Costa Rica and anyone with an Internet connection can view and listen to more than one million recordings made available so far.
As for identifying the species, the team also developed a web application that provides users with tools to train the software to automate species identification. As well, the team developed tools to measure the accuracy and precision of the model. Once reliable, the computer can process more than 100,000 recordings in less than an hour, providing information on species that are present or absent from a given location.
This truly innovative system and the results of the research are described in a new paper published in the open-access journal PeerJ.
The research team has already demonstrated the value of such a system, as they have been able to use the innovative system to capture and analyze the sounds of a recently described species of endangered frog (Eleutherodactylus juanariveroi) in Puerto Rico. This particular species has shown a significant decline in calling activity over four years, but calling rates recovered in the fifth year to original levels. The researchers noted this is a common occurrence in many species, yet it is often difficult to measure. With the new system, the team has proven accurate measurement can be made via sounds of the ecosystem.
"To understand the impacts of deforestation and climate change, we need reliable long-term data on the fauna from around the world," explained Dr. Aide. "Traditional sampling methodology, sending biologists to the field, is expensive and often results in incomplete and limited data sets because it is impossible to maintain biologists in the field 24 hours a day throughout the year, and it is impossible to clone expert field biologists, so that they can monitor various sites simultaneously."
Dr. Corrada-Bravo noted this is not meant to eliminate the work of the biologist. "On the contrary, we are trying to provide the best data and tools possible, so that the biologists can use their time to convert these data into useful information for science, conservation, management, and education."
Not only does this technology help biologists transfer hard data into useable information, it also provides a verifiable permanent record, said the researchers.
"Each recording is the equivalent of a museum sample, which can be analyzed with the knowledge and technologies we have today, but which will be permanently stored so that biologists 20 or 50 years from now, will be able to analyze these recordings with new technologies and ideas" said Dr. Corrada-Bravo.
"Conserving and managing the biodiversity in the world is a major challenge for society, particularly in the tropics. We hope that the tools we have developed will allow researchers, students, managers, and the public to better understand how these threats are impacting species, so that we can make informed conservation and management decisions" concluded Dr. Aide.
Image Below: This is a schematic of the components of the ARBIMON recording system. Credit: ARBIMON