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 As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Before burial at overflowing cemeteries, unidentified dead being swapped for DNA, in case some day relatives come to learn their fate

    Russian Opposition Leader Sues Putin for Conflict of Interest

    Alexei Navalny tells VOA in exclusive interview why transfer of $2 billion from country’s wealth fund to company with ties to President Putin’s son-in-law triggered lawsuit

    Clinton, Sanders Fight for African American Votes

    Some African American lawmakers lining up to support Clinton in face of perceived surge by Sanders in race for Democratic nomination in presidential campaign

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Filli
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 11, 2016 8:01 PM
    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video US Co-ed Selective Service Plan Stirs Controversy

    Young women may soon be required to register with the U.S. Selective Service System, the U.S. government agency charged with implementing a draft in a national emergency. Top Army and Marine Corps commanders told the Senate Armed Services Committee recently that women should register, and a bill has been introduced in Congress requiring eligible women to sign up for the military draft. The issue is stirring some controversy, as VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.
    Video

    Video Lessons Learned From Ebola Might Help Fight Zika

    Now that the Ebola epidemic has ended in West Africa, Zika has the world's focus. And, as Carol Pearson reports, health experts and governments are applying some of the lessons learned during the Ebola crisis in Africa to fight the Zika virus in Latin America and the Caribbean.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Illinois Voters Have Mixed Emotions on Obama’s Return to Springfield

    On the ninth anniversary of the launch of his quest for national office, President Barack Obama returned to Springfield, Illinois, to speak to the Illinois General Assembly, where he once served as state senator. His visit was met with mixed emotions by those with a front-row seat on his journey to the White House. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Heated Immigration Debate Limits Britain’s Refugee Response

    Compared to many other European states, Britain has agreed to accept a relatively small number of Syrian refugees. Just over a thousand have arrived so far -- and some are being resettled in remote corners of the country. Henry Ridgwell reports on why Britain’s response has lagged behind its neighbors.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.