Orcasound: A citizen science tool for whale research

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A critical part of the survey is to find out what the whales are eating.


Hydrophones, underwater microphones, are particularly useful at night or in poor weather when sighting networks are ineffective. Computer algorithms are playing a growing role in analyzing hydrophone audio data, but human listeners can complement and enhance these algorithms.

A research project known as Orcasound has produced a web application that wants to enable citizen scientists to listen to live streaming audio from hydrophones near the San Juan Islands to identify killer whales and other novel sounds.

Scott Veirs, a bioacoustian based in Seattle and lead researcher of the Orcasound project, wants to describe the new web app and the value of citizen science at the Acoustical Society of America's 176th Meeting, held in conjunction with the Canadian Acoustical Association's 2018 Acoustics Week in Canada , Nov. 5-9 at the Victoria Conference Center in Victoria, Canada.

Citizen scientists have found it useful to detect abnormalities or noticing unusual activity. The aim of Orcasound is to provide a user-friendly way for people interested in the study and conservation of marine life to participate in research, Veirs said. The question at the heart of the project, he added, is how to organize and train people listening to the streaming audio to better detectors of whales. The Orcasound project thus saves audio data to online cloud storage servers for later analysis-by both humans and algorithms.

Each node in the network uses Raspberry Pi computer with additional audio hardware. The computers run the Linux operating system and open-source software to encode and send audio using standard data formats. This minimizes costs while maximizing browser compatibility and ease of use. "We really want to make it easy for people to listen to signals," Veirs said.

Which versions of the app do you want to use? Although there may be some rivalry between machines and humans in this arena, the orcasound app aims to bring synergy between citizen scientists and sophisticated algorithms.


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More information:
Presentation # 2pAO1, "Orcasound app: An open-source solution for streaming live ocean sound to cite scientists and cloud-based algorithms," by Scott Veirs will be take place Tuesday, Nov. 6, 1:00 p.m. in the Esquimalt room of the Victoria Conference Center in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. More information can be found at www.orcasound.net

Provided by:
Acoustical Society of America

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