Bioacoustics and community knowledge for climate change monitoring

Communities With Data Are More Resilient to Climate Crisis

On March 28th, World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Nepal hosted Earth Hour Nepal. It was a virtual event to bring Nepalese communities, organizations working in Nepal, and people around the world together to think about actions they are taking in the face of climate change. One part of the day was an hour in which participants were to turn off their electricity to collectively make a dent in energy use in Nepal for that hour. For the rest of the day, there was a series of virtual educational sessions and musical performances.

Songs of Adaptation was excited to participate and think about the impact of our work in the Makalu Barun National Park. All of the topics discussed were interesting; there was one in particular that stood out. Bindu Bhandari, from Climate Interactive, gave a talk about the 5 reasons why mountain communities in Nepal are especially vulnerable to climate change. She pointed to a lack of long-term data sets and the lack of sharing of information as one of them. As a result, proposed interventions are often made without a clear picture of historic and present ecological realities. 

This area is one in which we hope to impact. The Makalu Barun is a particularly remote and oft-overlooked area in Nepal, which means a lack of well-documented ecological and climatological data is especially poignant. Future Generations University, our parent organization, has alumni, students, and faculty from Nepal and around the world working in the region. The university has a long and important history in the Makalu Barun National Park. Songs of Adaptation became a part of that story in 2018 when we began collecting bioacoustic data in coordination with the Barun Bacheon Team (“Save the Barun”) composed of local experts and community members. Our team members in Nepal are diligent in regular collection and maintenance of the equipment. They also integrate local knowledge and understanding to make sense of the data and ensure that our Artificial Intelligence models have accurate and community-informed data.

Songs of Adaptation is establishing a baseline of bioacoustic, ecological, and climatological data in the Barun River drainage, covering diverse ecosystems from 1000 meters to 4000 meters of elevation. We are dedicated to continuing to work in this area that there is consistent data for decades to come. Furthermore, by collaborating with communities and having local people on our team, we are in a unique position to record and share indigenous knowledge about the changing ecosystem. This project is committed to noticing as ecosystems march up hills. We will work to empower communities to notice these changes and adapt accordingly. The Earth Hour Nepal event energized us. It was exciting to see so many other examples of conservation efforts and organizations protecting the mountains of Nepal. We cannot wait to see what the future holds for the Makalu Barun, Nepal, and mountain communities around the world.

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