New popular article in Nature Alberta Magazine

An article I wrote for Nature Alberta magazine is now available online and in print. The article can be downloaded from from this link.

The article gives a high-level overview of the benefits of acoustic monitoring as a method for documenting and understanding change in natural ecosystems. It highlights why this technology has been adopted at an accelerating pace both within Alberta and around the globe. The article is intended for a general audience, so no matter your scientific background, go give it a read!

Wanted: sound or video recordings of Ruffed Grouse drums from across North America (especially the Pacific Northwest, coastal BC, and Vancouver Island)

Who is the best drummer of all time? Maybe you think it’s John Bonham from Led Zeppelin, Neil Peart from Rush, or (less likely) Ringo Starr from the Beatles.

Truth is, it’s none of the above – the best drummer of all time is the Ruffed Grouse.

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The quest for the Yellow Rail (new paper)

Banding a Yellow Rail in Saskatchewan, back in 2012.

I’m happy to announce that I recently published a new paper on the status of Yellow Rails in Alberta’s oilsands region. The paper is open access in the journal Avian Conservation and Ecology and can be accessed here. The story of this paper is, in my opinion, best told as a narrative – one that illustrates the sometimes-circuitous paths of a research career.

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New paper out on surveying birds in patchy habitat using acoustic recording units

bioacoustics_logo_large2I’m happy to announce the release of a new paper out now in the journal Bioacoustics, titled “Distance truncation via sound level for bioacoustic surveys in patchy habitat”. The paper can be downloaded and viewed here. This paper was a collaborative effort between myself and others in the Bayne Lab/Bioacoustic Unit.

A well-recognized (and obvious) characteristic of bird sounds is that they can transmit over relatively long distances – in some cases over a hundred meters. This poses a problem during bird surveys, since a survey conducted in one habitat type (e.g. upland forest) might detect birds that are located in another habitat type (e.g. wetland). This can introduce error into statistical analysis, and can impede understanding of species-habitat associations. Continue reading

New paper on Lark Sparrow song

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We made the cover!

A new paper that I was involved with was just published in the journal Western Birds, titled “The structure of Lark Sparrow song in California”.  The paper was a collaborative effort with Ed Pandolfino. This was a rather out-of-the-blue collaboration – Ed and I had emailed back and forth about Plumbeous/Cassin’s Vireo song a few times. Then, as he started examining Lark Sparrow song, he figured my analytical skill set would be useful as he started writing a paper on that species. I happily obliged, things went smoothly thereafter, and now the paper’s out! Click here to have a look at the paper or read on for a brief summary.

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Parental leave, January-March 2019

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My daughter learning to use a bioacoustic recorder. Never too early to start!

As of April 1, I’m back at work after three months off. Canada allows 1 year of paid parental leave, divided flexibly between the two parents as long as your employment qualifies. I decided to take the last three months, while my wife took the first nine.

Those three months have come to an end. I had a great time with my daughter, with highlights including a trip to the west coast and a trip to visit a friend in Florida! I also got to experience the life of a stay-at-home parent. Never again will I say “parental leave is a great time for [writing grants, writing papers, doing science]”.

Now, back to work.

Presentation at the Acoustical Society of America, Victoria, BC, November 2018

ASA_Master_Brand_Initials_color-e1525702626858I was happy to be invited by Tiago Marques to present at the Acoustical Society of America conference in November. This was my first “acoustics” conference, so it was nice to finally branch out from birds and behaviour, and see talks about acoustics more generally.

Full disclosure, though, I still talked about birds. My talk was entitled “Sound localization for estimating population densities of birds: progress, challenges and opportunities”. In short, I highlighted that sound localization has seldom, if at all, been used to estimate the population density of birds. It is well-suited to this task, however, because sound recorders allow researchers to simultaneously and completely sample an area of arbitrary size for all singing birds. This removes/minimizes many of the nuisance variables associated with population density estimation (e.g. time-of-day, time-of-season, bird movement). It also allows much more precise estimation of habitat use at fine spatial scales, compared to rather coarse-scale sampling methods in current use.

The main problem is cost: hardware expenses alone might cost $100,000 to cover an area the size of three football fields. Covering smaller areas is cheaper and useful for many research questions, but if the goal is density estimation, “edge-effects” lead to many of the same problems as other survey methods. Hopefully, as sound localization sees broader adoption, these costs come down.

Many thanks to my aunt and uncle, Susan and Ross Holloway, for putting me up in their house for the week! I hope to attend another ASA meeting soon!

Presentation(s) at the International Ornithological Congress in Vancouver, BC.

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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

Alberta Chapter of the Wildlife Society Conference in Lethbridge, Alberta

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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