OSU high-tech team monitors bird songs

CORVALLIS - Researchers at Oregon State University are using bird songs to track climate change, and they have come up with a new high-tech way to listen to those songs.

The team has developed a new technology that tracks birds better than any human has ever been able to before.

What's so unique about this technology is that it can listen to multiple bird sounds at once, since birds often sing together, and then pick out each individual bird singing.

You have a Hermit Warbler and a Swainson s Thrush singing at exactly the same time but our software is able to separate the two, explained Forrest Briggs, a doctoral student in computer science at OSU.

Each song is translated into a pattern that the computer can read.

For decades researchers have been trying to monitor birds by sitting out in a field and watching them, but the data they collect has been limited.

This new technology gives scientists weeks worth of continuous data.

It is data that is crucial in tracking bird movement which, in turn, can indicate climate change and habitat loss.

Birds are considered to be good indicators for environmental change and that goes back to the canary in the coal mine idea, said Matthew Betts, associate professor of forest ecosystems and society.

Humans are dependent on biodiversity, the variety of life, so if we start to see biodiversity declining, humans are likely going to be in trouble as well, said Betts.

The researchers are currently monitoring birds in the Cascades to see if they are moving to higher elevations in response to climate warming.

But the team also hopes to, one day, expand their research and take this technology to the tropics where there are hundreds of bird species.


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