News / Science & Technology

New Software Tells Who's in the Forest and Who Isn't

In this March 21, 2013 photo, Ana Longo, a researcher with Proyecto Coqui, holds a Coqui or Common Coqui in a tropical forest in Patillas, Puerto Rico.
In this March 21, 2013 photo, Ana Longo, a researcher with Proyecto Coqui, holds a Coqui or Common Coqui in a tropical forest in Patillas, Puerto Rico.
Megan McGrath
Researchers have developed software that can listen to recordings of a rainforest and tell us what animals are there, and importantly, what animals are not. The new technology is free online for anyone to use and conservationists are taking advantage of it.

Software Tells Who's in the Forest and Who Isn't
Software Tells Who's in the Forest and Who Isn'ti
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X

If you listen closely to a recording of a rainforest in Puerto Rico, you probably will not be able to count how many frogs you hear.  Unfortunately, one of those frogs - the one with the really high-pitched chirps, like tapping on glass - is called a Plains Coqui, and it is endangered.

Scientists struggle with this problem every day. Thousands of species die out each year, and they want to know how climate change and habitat destruction are affecting animals like the Plains Coqui. But how can scientists know if they’re dying out if they don’t even know how many there are?

That’s where the Automated Remote Biodiversity Monitoring Network, or ARBIMON, comes in.

“It’s a generic system to monitor biodiversity," said Mitchell Aide of the University of Puerto Rico, who is one of the leaders of the ARBIMON team. The team has developed new technology that could help conservationists monitor biodiversity worldwide.

"The software is set up for the user to use it for whatever species they’re interested in, it could be snapping shrimp, or whales, or it could be frogs or insects or monkeys,” Aide added.  

Researchers place small, inexpensive sound recorders - often reprogrammed iPods - in the rainforest, where they take short sound samples every 10 minutes around the clock. The recordings are sent in real time to a central computer.

The scientists program the computer to recognize the sounds of different animals in the recordings, and then they let the software run. It can analyze tens of thousands of recordings in less than an hour, and tell researchers which animals are in the rainforest, which aren’t, who’s making sounds when and who’s not.

For example, when researchers looked at five years of recordings in Puerto Rico, they noticed that the endangered frog called less and less over four years. This could be cause for alarm, but in the fifth year the frog's appearance in the samples bounced back to its original levels. This information about what appears to be the frog population's natural rhythm would not have been available without long-term data.

The team now has recording stations in Hawaii, Arizona, Costa Rica, Brazil and many other locations. Over months or even years, Aide says scientists can build a sound picture of the landscape, and what lives there.

“We’re creating a permanent record," he said. "In a sense, each recording is the equivalent of a specimen in a museum. We’re going to archive these recordings so anybody can have access to them today, or in five years, or in 20 years, and go back and say, ‘What were the sounds like in this forest, in this city, on this island, 15, 20 years ago?’”

The ARBIMON software and its archive of sound is freely available to everyone, scientists and citizens alike, at arbimon.com.

You May Like

Video British Fighters on Frontline of Islamic State Information War

It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for Islamic State alongside other foreign jihadists More

Pakistan's Political Turmoil Again Shines Spotlight on Military

Thousands of protesters calling for PM Sharif to step down continue protests in front of parliament, as critics fear political impasse could spur another military coup More

Photogallery Ebola Quarantines Spark Anxiety in Liberian Capital

Food prices rise sharply as residents attempting purchases clash with security forces, leaving one person dead More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Native Bees May Help Save Cropsi
X
Deborah Block
August 22, 2014 12:23 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video Native Bees May Help Save Crops

U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video US Defense Officials Plan for Long-Term Strategy to Contain Islamic State

U.S. defense officials say American air strikes in Iraq have helped deter Islamic State militants for the time being, but that a broad international effort is needed to defeat the extremists permanently. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Thursday that the group formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, is better organized, and financially and militarily stronger than any other known terrorist group. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug-Resistant Malaria Spreads in Southeast Asia

On Thailand’s border with Myanmar, also known as Burma, a malaria research and treatment clinic is stepping up efforts to eliminate a drug-resistant form of the parasite - before it spreads abroad. Steve Sandford reports from Mae Sot, Thailand.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid