Environment

Online observatory will let users listen in on Australian wildlife

Online observatory will let us...
One of the 400 audio sensors that will make up the Australian Acoustic Observatory
One of the 400 audio sensors that will make up the Australian Acoustic Observatory
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An example of one of the soundscape displays
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An example of one of the soundscape displays
One of the 400 audio sensors that will make up the Australian Acoustic Observatory
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One of the 400 audio sensors that will make up the Australian Acoustic Observatory
The audio sensors' memory cards will be collected and replaced once a year
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The audio sensors' memory cards will be collected and replaced once a year

Many of us frequently use Google Maps' Street View feature, to see what things look like at a given location. Well, Australian scientists are developing a sort of audio equivalent, that will let users hear various eco-regions throughout the country.

Known as the Australian Acoustic Observatory, the system is being set up via a collaboration between the Queensland University of Technology, James Cook University, the University of Queensland, the University of New England and Charles Sturt University. It's based around 400 solar-powered audio sensors that are being placed at 100 sites in seven distinct ecological regions throughout Australia – these regions will include desert, grasslands, shrublands and temperate, subtropical and tropical forests.

Over a five-year period, those sensors will proceed to record nature sounds 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The recordings will be uploaded to a cloud-based server, from which they will be freely accessible by "citizen scientists, artists, researchers and the general public."

The audio sensors' memory cards will be collected and replaced once a year
The audio sensors' memory cards will be collected and replaced once a year

Utilizing visualized soundscape displays on the observatory's website, users will be able to select a specific time and date for a specific location, then listen to what was happening then and there. In some cases, the system will be able to automatically recognize certain animal calls, letting users know which creature was responsible. Calls that are more mysterious can be crowdsourced out to the users, who may be able to provide suggestions.

Additionally – thanks to custom software – it will be possible to analyze the unique combination of sounds for one area, in order to assign it a one-of-a-kind "acoustic DNA."

"The sensors will capture every frog croak, bird call, animal noise, and weather event to create a soundscape for each eco-region," says the Queensland University of Technology's Prof. Paul Roe. "This will allow us to hear what is happening in remote areas when, for example, rain makes the area inaccessible but interesting ecological events such as desert frogs emerging from the ground are occurring. The Acoustic Observatory will reveal these events and show us what is happening to the environment."

Sources: Queensland University of Technology, Australian Acoustic Observatory

1 comment
christopher
They should use binaural microphones, so it would "sound like we are there" when we listen, and so we can hear *where* the sounds come from, not just the sounds themselves. Half the fun of listening to birds/frogs/etc in the bush is hearing pairs of them talking to each other, from different places.