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Calling for citizen scientists to recognise bird calls

If a bird calls out in the forest but there’s no one around to hear it, does it really exist? The answer is “of course, yes,” but we won’t know about it unless we are listening.

Researchers from the University of Tasmania are seeking members of the public to listen to audio recordings from Tasmanian forests to identify what birds they can hear.

Third year ICT students have developed a new citizen science website called Birdsong where anyone can learn how to recognise a variety of bird species and then identify those calls on visualisations of the audio known as spectrograms.

College of Sciences and Engineering lecturer Dr James Montgomery said birds were a key indicator of environmental health and human-induced change.

“Knowing how many different species—and which species—are present in an environment informs the management of protected forests and those used by industries such as forestry and mining,” Dr Montgomery said.

“In the last decade there has been rapid growth in the field of bioacoustics, which is the analysis of environmental sounds to detect individual species or assess biodiversity.

“This has been accompanied by the deployment of large numbers of acoustic recorders in environments of interest, which can capture the sounds of birds and other noisy animals 24 hours a day for many days at a time.”

Dr Montgomery said University of Tasmania researchers were working to develop computerised recognition technologies, however these technologies needed examples to learn from.

“Birdsong helps provide these examples for training the next generation of automated recognition techniques as well as giving forest ecologists information they can use right now.”

The work is a collaboration between University of Tasmania researchers from ICT, Maths, and Biological Sciences, the ARC Centre for Forest Value, and partner organisations Sustainable Timber Tasmania, NRM South, Tasmanian Land Conservancy and VicForests.

To sign up to take part in the project go to

Published on: 13 Aug 2018 11:38am