Keeping the birds singing
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Your community conservation group has spent hundreds of volunteer hours preparing predator traps. You think the birdlife is starting to return, but to know for sure involves listening to hours and hours of recordings, and making sure you don’t miss a single bird song. Surely there must be an easier way?
Massey University PhD student Nirosha Priyardarshani thinks there is, and her automated bird song recognition software, the recipient of a $5000 grant from WWF’s Conservation Innovation Awards in 2014, might just be the answer.
Nirosha’s project draws links from her background in speech recognition, and will eventually allow for audio data to be analysed digitally. The software is currently being tested to ensure it recognizes the more common species in the New Zealand bush, but trials have also begun on North Island brown kiwi, little spotted kiwi, great spotted kiwi, morepork, kakapo, Australasian bittern, weka, and kaka. Eventually, the software will recognise all our native species.
“I am also conducting bird song playback experiments in the field using DoC acoustic recorders, as I want to help address the practical issues that ecologists face such as what is the maximum wind speed that they can still collect useful recordings, and how much distance can affect recording quality,” says Nirosha.
It’s innovation like this that has the potential to make a huge difference for community conservation projects all over New Zealand. This means less time in front of the computer and more time out in the field - music to anyone’s ears.
Blog by WWF-New Zealand's Mike O'Connor
Think you could be the next Nirosha? You have to be in to win so visit wwf.org.nz/innovation and submit your new idea for nature!