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

Tunnel Bombs Highlight Savagery of Aleppo Fight

Rebels have used tunneling tactic near government buildings, command posts or supply routes to set off explosives; they detonated their largest bomb this week under Syria's intelligence headquarters More

Sierra Leone Launches New Initiative to Stop Ebola Spread

Government hopes Infection and Prevention Control Units, IPC, will help protect patients and healthcare workers More

UN Official: Fight Against Terrorism Must Not Violate Human Rights

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights says efforts by states to combat terrorism are resulting in large scale rights violations against the very citizens they claim to defend More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boyi
X
Jeff Seldin
March 05, 2015 2:36 AM
A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.
Video

Video Volunteer Gauge-Watchers Help Fine-Tune Weather Science

An observation system called CoCoRaHS is working to improve weather science, thanks to thousands of volunteers across the country who measure precipitation in their own backyards, then share their data through the Internet. VOA's Shelley Schlender reports.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video African Americans Recall 1960s Fight For Voting Rights

U.S. President Barack Obama and thousands of people will gather in the small southern U.S. city of Selma, Alabama, Saturday, March 7 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a historic voting rights march that became known as “Bloody Sunday." VOA’s Chris Simkins traveled to Alabama and introduces us to some of the foot soldiers of the voting rights struggles of the 1960s.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More