Touching down in the Vancouver airport for the International Ornithological Congress.
I was thrilled to be able to attend and present at the International Ornithological Congress in Vancouver, BC at the end of August. This is a conference that had been circled on my calendar ever since it was first announced a few years ago. It had two key ingredients: first, it was one of the largest ornithological conferences to ever be held, and second, it was in my hometown. Birds and home-cooked meals – what’s not to like?
I delivered not one, but two oral presentations at the conference. Continue reading
A diagram from my poster illustrating the concept of sound localization. The black dots are microphones; the blue bird is the sound source; the relative delay of a sound arriving at the four microphones can be used to estimate the bird’s location with about 1m of accuracy.
This past weekend, I attended the Alberta Chapter of the Wildlife Society Conference in Lethbridge, Alberta. This was my first time attending a conference focused on something other than birds, and I had a fantastic time. I met lots of interesting people – many from Alberta, some from outside the province. I gave a poster presentation entitled “Localization of bird songs to assess responses to oil well sites”. Continue reading
The sun sets and the moon rises after a long day of field work near Fort McMurray
I recently returned from two trips to Northeastern Alberta to conduct some winter field work. The project is the Master’s project of Bayne lab member Jeremiah Kennedy. The goal is to survey for owls in Alberta’s boreal forest, understand their habitat preferences, and investigate whether small owls avoid or alter their behaviours in response to large owls. Species of interest include Boreal Owls, Great Horned Owls, and Barred Owls, to name a few.
Because owls breed in March and April, we had to put the recording units out in February to ensure we didn’t miss their peak vocal activity – hence the snowmobiles. I spent most of my days snowshoeing to far-off locations in thigh-deep snow: hard work – and my hip flexors gave me some grief – but it was a great experience!
I am thrilled to announce that I will be spending the next two years working in Erin Bayne’s lab at the University of Alberta!
Yesterday, I got the news that my proposal for a Mitacs Accelerate grant was approved. The proposal has two primary aims: 1) to improve sound localization technology (see my previous post on the topic here); and 2) to use this technology to assess the impacts of human alterations to habitat (e.g. energy industry activity) on bird behavior and ecology. Looking forward to getting started!
The 2017 field season is in the books. I had a very busy season, both personally and professionally: I spent several weeks in the field, moved from Calfornia to Canada, and got married. I’ll recount some of the highlights below. Continue reading
My colleagues and I have a new paper out in the journal Avian Conservation and Ecology called “Direction-of-arrival estimation of animal vocalizations for monitoring animal behaviour and improving estimates of abundance”. The paper presents the results of a test of a sound localization system made from two Wildlife Acoustics Songmeter SM3 devices, configured so that an algorithm can tell a user the precise direction towards a sound source. Click here to download the paper.
UCLA Campus in 1929, shortly after its inception
I’ve been birding on the UCLA campus – often with friends, often by myself – since I arrived here to start my PhD in 2012. Quality bird habitat on campus is fairly patchily distributed these days. There’s the Mildred E. Mathias botanical garden, which hosts the highest diversity of birds; there’s Sage hill, which is the most natural chunk of chaparral remaining on campus; and there are bits and pieces of shrubbery and trees scattered elsewhere.
But of course, it wasn’t always this way. The campus, at its inception in 1926, was mostly a patchwork of fields, oaks, chaparral and arroyos. The bird community it hosted included about a dozen species that are currently absent from campus: species like the Greater Roadrunner, California Quail, California Thrasher, and Burrowing Owls. How do I know this? Because an early professor at the campus, Dr. Loye Miller, wrote a book about the birds of campus, a book that now serves as an invaluable record of the early campus avifauna.
My friends and I have now updated Dr. Miller’s observations, by surveying the birds of campus over the past year and a half. The results of our surveys, which documented numerous conspicuous changes to the campus avifauna, have now been published in the Western Tanager, the publication of the Los Angeles Audubon Society. You can find the article here. Continue reading
On Wednesday evening, I had the opportunity to give a talk about my research to a meeting of ornithologists from across Southern California.
The Taylor lab has a new paper out in the journal Bioacoustics, called “Sensitivity of California Thrashers (Toxostoma redivivum) to song syntax”. The paper summarizes playback experiments aimed at examining the responses of California Thrashers to normal song sequences and sequences whose order had been randomly permuted. My role as third author was primarily in the design of experiments, the construction of playback sequences, and helping write and edit the manuscript. Click here for a brief summary, and read on for a brief summary of the findings. Continue reading
I just received word that a paper, on which I am the third author, has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Robotics and Mechatronics [edit: the paper has now been published and can be found here]. The paper is entitled “HARKBird: Exploring acoustic interactions in bird communities using a microphone array”, and presents a new software/hardware system to extract information regarding the direction-of-arrival of sounds into a set of microphones (see picture on right, which is a Microcone containing seven microphones). Continue reading