Struggling to find your research species? Having trouble avoiding habitat disturbance? Lacking the time to track and analyze your data?
You’re not alone. Across the globe, scientists working on research surveys have unintentionally rattled their research environment or altogether missed their targets. All the while, they lost valuable time that could’ve been used on data analysis.
That’s why so many scientists facing these challenges have adopted acoustic monitoring as a cost-effective, non-invasive, automated way to discover and monitor wildlife.
Here are the four big reasons why acoustic monitoring has gained popularity among savvy researchers.
Traditional surveying techniques call for documenting species encounters through point-counts or transects. Not only are you required to be physically present at the field site, but the number of visits you make can limit the amount of data you can collect.
Other methods, like camera trapping, have their own downsides. Cameras can only see what’s in front of the lens, and they may not be ideal for smaller mammals, frogs or birds that are more difficult to spot visually.
Acoustic surveys allow you to monitor beyond what is seen by recording the sounds of your research habitat without having to be there yourself. This means that even if your subject is miniscule and nearly impossible to see (even on camera), you can still record the vocalizations and verify species presence.
Simply set up your acoustic recorder, schedule your recordings, and go.
No matter how much camouflage you wear, or how quiet you attempt to be, there’s always a chance that you will disturb or influence the environment you’re studying.
If an animal retreats or alters their communication in response to your presence, the disturbance can bias your survey findings.
This is much less of a concern with acoustic monitoring where small recorders blend in with the environment, silently and continuously gathering data.
Let’s say you’re studying an endangered bird species. You’re trying to learn which forest patches they’re using and how they’re using them.
The birds are highly mobile, flying up over 50 miles per day looking for food. You have two researchers and a single vehicle to work on the project. The roads to and from the field site have rough terrain and are difficult to reach, and you quickly realize you’re only monitoring a small part of their geographic range.
So how do you effectively discover where the birds are?
It’s not as if you can visit dozens of sites concurrently. (Not unless you’ve mastered cloning!) But with automated acoustic recorders, you can schedule multiple recorders to sample frequently and run for extended periods of time – providing data on bird vocalizations in different forest patches. Because your recorders can be run at the same time, tracking activities concurrently becomes possible.
As a result, you’ll get permanent records of animal vocalizations. Over time, you can build a library of solid data to reference and better understand any changes in activity or species population.
Humans are imperfect, and therefore, can easily make errors when using traditional data collection techniques.
Similarly, data is limited by the observations of an individual fieldworker during the limited period that they’re physically present at a site. If an observer isn’t well trained, a rare species ID can easily be missed.
The ability to replay recordings is key. With sound recordings, your team can listen to the recording as many times as needed to confirm an ID. Repeated listening by multiple experts will allow you to scrutinize data for more accurate interpretation.
When you revisit records, they can also be reanalyzed to apply new methods or answer new questions. This means that your data can be used in a variety of ways – perhaps beyond the scope of your initial research inquiry.
Wildlife Acoustics specializes in wildlife audio recorders and software, specifically designed to capture vocalizations of birds, bats, frogs, and other wildlife. With almost 100,000 units recording wildlife in over 100 countries, our tools help researchers conduct endangered species surveys, soundscape monitoring, impact assessments and beyond.
Learn more at wildlifeacoustics.com/solutions.