Studying animal sounds for conservation

Shotgun microphone with windshield recording sounds of nature in outdoor.The background is blurred.Two Headphones are seen on top of microphone.No people are seen in frame.The microphone is attached to a boom stick.Shot in daylight with medium format DSLR camera Hasselblad.Horizontal framing.  

In some forests of central Africa, the Amazon and Borneo, the sounds of chainsaws and gunshots — signs of illegal activities such as logging and poaching — are picked up and communicated to forest managers by unlikely tools: acoustic devices. While bioacoustics (the study of the study of animal sound production, dispersion and reception) is being used worldwide to not only monitor threats to biodiversity but also study animal behaviour and diversity, the field is still in its nascent stages in India. However, a recent workshop conducted at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER), Tirupati, hopes to change this.

Aimed at building capacity among Indian researchers to study bioacoustics, the 10-day workshop that concluded on March 21 focused on various methods (field methods on how to record animal calls effectively and analytical methods to extract data from these recordings) in the study of bioacoustics. The workshop trained 25 participants (practising biologists who want to use bioacoustics in their research) to use one of the world's most popular bioacoustics softwares, RAVEN. Resource persons from Cornell University (from its renowned Bioacoustics Research Program and Macaulay Library, the world's largest repository of animal sounds and images) conducted the sessions of the workshop supported by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, IISER Tirupati and Indian Institute of Technology (Mandi), and funded by the Indo-US Science and Technology Forum.

Though many Indian researchers are interested in studying bioacoustics, the lack of any training available in the country has been a problem, said Dr. V.V. Robin (assistant professor, IISER Tirupati), one of the organizers of the workshop.

“There are fewer than 10 research groups in India that study bioacoustics,” added the biologist, whose team studies the bioacoustics of bird song in the Western Ghats.

Dr. Robin’s bioacoustic studies of bird song have involved studying the differences in song dialects between birds on different mountaintops in the Western Ghats. These studies reveal that bird songs across deforested landscapes were extremely different from those in undisturbed areas.

“This field can not just help understand animal behaviour but also analyse their responses to humans,” said Dr. Robin.

Participants of the workshop say that they learnt the basics of animal call recording during the workshop.

“I learnt how to use several additional features that I did not know existed in the software,” said Viral Joshi, a project assistant at IISER Tirupati who studies birds and has already recorded bird calls of 530 species from across India.

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Printable version | Dec 3, 2021 10:33:49 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/studying-animal-sounds-for-conservation/article26645717.ece

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