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T&D > Programs Areas > Inventory & Monitoring > Acoustic Wildlife Monitoring Program Areas
Acoustical Wildlife Presence Monitoring
Rey Farve, Project Leader


Currently, the US Forest Service performs numerous “point count” bird census efforts in which biologist visit monitoring sites in the forest for a prescribed amount of time and identify birds mostly by their distinctive calls/songs. This information is used to assess bird species of concern as well as taxon groups, such as migratory birds. Because statistically sound presence/absence data requires multiple visits to many points, this information is logistically difficult to perform and expensive (in man-hours) to obtain.

One alternative to repeatedly placing a person physically in the field to collect information is to sample sites remotely by using an automatic recording device to collect the distinctive sounds made by wildlife (especially birds). Significant cost savings associated with monitoring efforts could be achieved if those sounds could be stored and transferred wirelessly from the field to a remote (office) location, thereby eliminating the need to physically, repeatedly retrieve the recorded archival sounds.

Further, if the wildlife sounds could be automatically processed so as to identify, at least, the presence (or document the absence) of wildlife by species, the USFS could achieve a considerable cost saving by not having to manually process many hours of sound data to acoustically census certain wildlife.

The San Dimas Technology & Development Center (SDTDC) has approached this project as 3 separate but interrelated tasks:

Task 1—Identify and/or develop a device that is capable of autonomous recording and storing digital sounds produced by wildlife in the field over a period of weeks.

Task 2—Identify/develop software to automatically process the digitally recorded wildlife sounds so that, at least, presence/absence census of species can be obtained.

Task 3—Identify technology and methods to allow for two-way wireless communication between the recorder in the field and a remote (office) location.

Note: SDTDC will not investigate/develop sampling guidelines or protocols for placement of recording devices in the field.

Photo of a black-backed woodpecker on a tree.

Sonogram of the black-backed woodpecker's noise.
Blackbacked woodpecker and sonogram