Did you know that sound waves can be analysed as a biodiversity monitoring tool? Let’s talk bioacoustics!
Bioacoustics is a research field that uses audio recording devices to study species and ecosystems. This is less intensive than many traditional field methods and allows us to listen in on wild animals without creating too much disturbance.
Bioacoustics research can include approaches whereby scientists focus on specific species and conduct fieldwork to record their vocalisations at close range. Alternatively, it may involve the placement of passive acoustic monitors in a set location to record audio data over a longer period of time.
In terms of conservation research, bioacoustics:
- Allows us to quickly gather in-depth information about ecosystems, including species’ presence (determined by their vocalisations), rain patterns, and human activity.
- Helps us monitor threatened species, examine habitat use and migration patterns, and understand how ecosystems recover from disturbance events like logging or forest fires.
- Provides data to guide conservation planning and support the development of new conservation strategies.
Bioacoustic Training for Conservation
Recently, an independent researcher from the University of Georgia collaborated with Gajah Mada University to provide training on the analysis of Passive Acoustic Monitoring (PAM) results for a number of Indonesian universities, NGOs and local stakeholders.
Kristen Morrow, a doctoral student from the Integrative Conservation and Anthropology programme at the University of Georgia, USA, led the training session in Central Borneo last month (February 2023).
As the name suggests, PAM recorders are a passive monitoring tool that can be placed in a tree and left for several weeks or months to record audio data.
“Usually, scientists will place multiple recorders within an established research zone, spacing them out by a few hundred metres to a kilometre so that data can be recorded from across a wider area,” she explained via online message.
Kristen added that the training brought together BNF staff, field researchers and local university partners, including Palangka Raya University and Palangka Raya Muhammadiyah University, with a shared interest in conduction bioacoustics research in Central Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo.
“Our goal was to deliver introductory training on how to visualise sound data as a spectrogram and identify species’ vocalisations using a sound analysis software called Raven, provided by the K. Lisa Yang Center for Conservation Bioacoustics at Cornell University.”
One of the participants from Palangka Raya University, Dimas Teja Kusuma, had initially only considered bioacoustics as a way of identifying animal species through sound. However, he said that this training had opened his eyes to the many ways that bioacoustics methods can be used to monitor biodiversity and inform conservation management plans.
“This is an interesting and novel field of research that I am excited to learn more about as part of my undergraduate studies in Forestry,” Dimas continued, adding that he now hopes to employ bioacoustic methods in his own research.
Our aim is for all participants to apply learnings from this training, supporting wildlife management and biodiversity conservation throughout Central Kalimantan.
Written by Yohanes Prahara, BNF’s Content Creator and Media Liaison