Dr. Darren O'Connell
Being awarded a Wildlife Acoustics Scientific Product Grant was a real privilege for me, giving me a chance to utilize some high end recording kit for the first time. My previous bioacoustics work has involved long hours in the field doing the recording manually, so I couldn’t wait to have the chance to stick up the SM4s and have them do the hard work for me, while collecting way more data than I ever could in person. As my field sites are dense and difficult mangroves in Sulawesi, this was a particularly appealing prospect.
Following on from the announcement of our award success we didn’t have to wait long before receiving our order, and had our six SM4 recorders by mid-January. The week later I visited collaborators in Dublin, Ireland, to go through field protocols and trial the recorders. By February we were ready to go, with fieldwork scheduled to begin mid-March and all bookings made.
However the unprecedented situation of the COVID-19 outbreak has forced this to change. This outbreak is a major problem in the UK and Indonesia (as elsewhere), restricting travel and requiring us to push our fieldwork plan back three months to mid-June. We intend to assess closer to the time whether that’s possible, Indonesia and the UK are currently on lockdown like most places, and nobody is sure when our respective lockdowns will end. If we can’t go June-September, then we still intend to complete our project and plan to go March-May 2021.
As the COVID-19 crises has overtaken the world this has forced us to deviate from our original project aims to be monitoring mangrove soundscapes in Indonesia from March 2020. The pandemic situation remains a major problems in the UK, and unfortunately is very serious in Indonesia, making internal travel there extremely difficult. Therefore we have had to postpone our fieldwork indefinitely for now until the situation improves.
However we have been able to put our recorders to good use. Our research group has joined in the global Silent Cities project, which seeks to record the unique urban soundscapes of cities in lockdown, and continue to record as there cities reopen https://lifeology.io/silent-cities-monitoring-the-sound-of-human-quarantine-around-the-globe/. This will allow for the assessment of how anthropogenic noise affects urban wildlife. We have deployed the Wildlife Acoustics Equipment Grant SM4 recorders to record the urban soundscapes of Newcastle, adding to this global initiative. This will allow us to use this equipment to make a positive contribution to cutting edge research while waiting to be able to access our field sites in Indonesia. We still intend to complete our project and hope to go March-May 2021.
As previously stated, the COVID-19 crises prevented us from completing our original project aims to monitor mangrove soundscapes in Indonesia from March 2020, forcing us to postpone our fieldwork. Given the pandemic situation in the UK and Indonesia, we are unlikely to be traveling to carry out fieldwork in the immediate future. However the situation in Indonesia has stabilised sufficiently that we have been able to make provisional arrangements with our collaborators in Indonesia, Dr Rignolda Djamaluddin’s group from Sam Rutalangi University, to ship the recorders to them. They will carry out the fieldwork and can ship the recorders and acoustic data back to us at the end of the field season. We plan to have the recorders in place to record the soundscapes of the transition from wet to dry season in March-May 2021. Therefore we would propose to postpone our final Progress Report one year to December 2021, so that we have time to carry out the modified project.
In the meantime, the recorders have been used as part of the global Silent Cities project (Challéat et al., in prep), which seeks to record the unique urban soundscapes of cities in lockdown, and continue to record as these cities reopen. This will allow for the assessment of how anthropogenic noise affects urban wildlife. The main period of targeted recording for Silent Cities ended in August and a data paper is now being prepared with the initial findings of this study.
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