My current research aims to use acoustic recordings to monitor wildlife populations and understand the impacts of humans on the biosphere. Acoustic recordings include a wealth of information on community composition, abundance, behaviour, ecological interactions, and anthropogenic disturbances – the challenge facing biologists is to transform raw sound recordings into meaningful data. This challenge is only growing in step with the ever-increasing size of acoustic datasets. The dataset I have access to in my current position exemplifies this challenge: listening to the full dataset from start to finish would take over 100 years! To solve this problem, I explore and develop new methods for making use of large acoustic datasets, with a primary focus on studying bird behaviour and conservation.
One emerging technology I have used extensively is sound localization, which is a technique for pinpointing the location of a singing bird with ~1m accuracy. The ability to track singing birds with this level of accuracy has many potential applications in the fields of animal behaviour and ecology – my goal is to use sound localization to gain insights about bird movements and habitat use, especially in the vicinity of anthropogenic disturbances.
My PhD research investigated the complexity of bird songs, and sought to understand the role of this complexity in communication. My primary study species was Cassin’s Vireo, a songbird found throughout western North America. I primarily worked in the western foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California, though I recorded the species throughout the state and in Mexico.