Bioacoustics and community knowledge for climate change monitoring

What Is Songs of Adaptation?

Hello! My name is Daniel Farmer, and I am a new member of the Songs of Adaptation team. As I transition into this position, I find myself continuously working to better explain who we are and what we do. As we move into a new year and a new decade, I want to help clarify it for anyone who is uncertain.

Songs of Adaptation is a project of Future Generations University. The mission of Future Generations is to promote research, learning, and action for inclusive and sustainable change worldwide.

Songs of Adaptation is curious about how climate change is impacting local ecosystems and people around the world. We are developing a methodology to look at sections of land representing a variety of ecosystems, and recording data on what birds are present and how they are reacting to shifts in climate.

Our technique for monitoring birds is bioacoustics. Bioacoustics is the study of nature by recorded sound. This is currently being done by scientists around the world to study such creatures as whales, wolves, amphibians, insects, and birds. While our current work focuses on birds, we are also recording the sounds of amphibians, mammals, and insects. We install research stations that consist of audio recording devices and climate data loggers in natural spaces. We later comb through the amassed data to find bird calls.

Our team is collecting data in West Virginia and Maryland, USA; Rurrenabaque, Bolivia; and Makalu-Barun National Park, Nepal. In each of these places, we have team members and local partners working hard to ensure the equipment is working properly and to gather the data from the Research Stations. We are now working to efficiently tag and store the data. We are also teaching an Artificial Intelligence (AI) model to “listen” to our data to find certain species. The program has successfully found and identified one species, called the Screaming Piha (Lipaugus vociferans), in Bolivia.

The implications for this work are vast. Our vision is to use our data to learn about the local effects of climate change to support climate resiliency efforts. One strategy we employ is installing research stations along biomeridians, or elevational transects (typically a mountainside) where the ecosystem shifts from one end to the other. This will allow us to notice ecosystem changes in an area as birds move through shifting habitat ranges along the biomeridian over time. Beyond the data gathering, we see bioacoustics as a tool connecting people to local changes in their climate. Through community and engagement, people involved in projects like ours are understanding shifts in their local ecology as they work to adapt to those changes. 

Up to this point, we have been working out our methodology, and are shifting into more data analysis. We are in communication with partners and the governments of the countries within which we are working to learn what species they are most curious about culturally and ecologically. Over the coming year and beyond, we hope to collect data in additional countries, have an AI model that is constantly and efficiently finding and identifying species in our data, and share these results with the world.

We invite you to follow our journey here on our website, on Instagram (@adaptationsongs), on Twitter (@adaptationsongs), and on Facebook (Songs of Adaptation).

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