Kasey Cope and Slaney Stringer
El Dorado High School Natural Resources Program
Receiving this grant has definitely been the highlight, as well as the turning point of our senior project. We had no idea how easy it would be to collect so much data in such a short period of time; it has made every aspect of our population more successful.
The Song Meter SM4 has worked amazingly well; it was extremely easy to program the recorder to record for 30 minutes off and on every day. This fixed one of our main issues, which was not being able to survey bird life at sunrise and sunset, when most of the birds are out. Now the data we have collected from one of our forests, a sugar pine grove, is much more consistent, unbiased, broad, and accurate. We mounted the Song Meter approximately 11 feet above the ground in the middle of the forest after programming it, and left it out for several weeks. After plugging the SD cards into our computer, we were able to see the all of the files with bird audio data. Since then, we have undergone a few struggles using the software. We had difficulty figuring out what all of the numbers in the data sheets meant, how to read the frequency distributions, and how to lower the sound contrast so that it is easier to hear the bird sounds. However, we learned how to do all of these things by talking to Chris from Wildlife Acoustics customer support. He was extremely helpful and now we have no problem listening to the audio files, identifying them with the help of the Song Sleuth mobile app, and sorting similar files into clusters. At the end of this year our data will be very substantial for our campus so that future students that take on this project have a strong foundation to build off of.
One thing that we had the privilege of doing in January is visiting a class of 7th graders to discuss our project and things we have learned. We gave a presentation about the importance of biodiversity, as well as explained the concept of our population study. We then had the kids participate in a scavenger hunt to identify birds at different stations that had pictures, recordings, and feathers. They learned how scientists can identify and record information about wildlife using field guides, data sheets, and audio recorders, like the one we have. It was very rewarding for us to see how much fun they had because of the knowledge we have gained over the past several months.
Finally, we have another event coming up that is an opportunity for us to further share this knowledge. On April 13th, our Natural Resources program hosts Natural Connections Day; this is when many classes from middle schools in our area come to our campus for a day and learn about various topics related to Natural Resources.