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The mysteries of the animal kingdom are wonderfully vast and full of opportunity for new discoveries.
With animal behaviour studies, you have a chance to decode a secret language that’s “spoken” only by a certain species.
Was that a warning call? A distress signal? A male wooing a female? Or is there, perhaps, a conflict at play?
Whether you’re researching birds, bats, frogs, primates or some other species, acoustic monitoring can help in more ways than you might expect.
Here’s how you can make the most of your animal behaviour study with the help of acoustic recorders.
First and foremost, when you’re studying animal behaviour, you want to ensure that animals are acting naturally. And as we know, animals often behave differently when humans are present.
Perhaps an extreme example – but imagine trying to record the vocalisation of a Grizzly Bear in person. If the bear were to spot you, it might immediately think “Dinner!” and quickly alter its behaviour in a way that you definitely don’t want!
With acoustic recording, you can set up recorders that capture the soundscape silently while animals go about their business normally. Days, weeks, or even months later when you retrieve your recording, you will have a record of wildlife vocalisations without creating numerous habitat disturbances.
However, this is not to say that your presence in the field would never be beneficial. For example, say that you notice in your data that the bird you’re monitoring makes a particular call several times each day. Without more context, it might be difficult to deduce what this call means.
That’s why acoustic research is often complimented by other methods. You might deploy a trail camera alongside the recorder, or you might still occasionally find yourself behind binoculars observing your species to better understand your data.
And in this case, you might notice that this bird makes this particular call when a predator flies by, and therefore, determine that this vocalisation is most likely a warning call. With that in mind, you can head back to the lab with new insight.
It’s unlikely that you will begin to understand the behaviour and communication style of a species in just few isolated encounters. And yet, if you’re manually collecting data, a few opportunities might be all you get. In-person field visits are often limited by time, costs, weather, and many other factors.
By passively recording vocalisations with an unattended recorder, you not only increase the amount of data you can collect, but you also get ample opportunity for playback. This allows you carefully analyse vocalisations and better piece together a picture of what that chirp, buzz, or croak might represent. Repeated listening helps to remove observer bias that you might’ve experienced if you were simply making notes in the field.
With recordings on hand, you also get the opportunity to get feedback from your professional network. For instance, having trouble deciphering the different bat calls that you recorded? Simply send the audio file to a colleague and ask for their take – all without dragging them out to that dilapidated (and perhaps dangerous) building with the bat roost.
When you have recordings, you can rewind, replay, and re-examine vocalisations as many times as you’d like – with the ears of as many experts as you need.
Studying the behaviour of nocturnal wildlife can be especially tricky. Not only is visual detection greatly reduced by the darkness, but you also might face other inherent dangers of night.
Say you are researching an endangered bird that nests exclusively at the tops of tall, old-growth trees. And let’s also say the bird typically only leaves the nest during darkness – before dawn and at dusk. To manually monitor this bird, it would require you to venture into the night where, even if you manage to avoid predators, you still run the risk of injury by navigating the woods with little light to guide you.
With acoustic recorders, you will reduce the number of trips out to the field. And, you’ll have the option to deploy and retrieve recorders in daylight, so you can get a good night’s rest and more safely access difficult terrain.
And once you retrieve your recordings, you can conveniently review your data from your lab during more reasonable hours.
Opting for acoustic recording will give you plenty of flexibility, too.
For example, say you are recording the endangered Northern Spotted Owl. Because they are nocturnal, you wouldn’t want to have to sift through 24 hours of recordings when the owls are only active during half of that time. Instead, you could set your device to begin recording at dusk and end it at dawn.
You also have the option to schedule your recorders to sample frequently throughout the day or at specific times. This might be ideal for scenarios where you know the time day that the species is most vocal.
As a researcher with tons of tasks on your plate, you might dream of being able to multiply yourself in order to tackle your duties of the day.
In a sense, acoustic monitoring allows you to do just that. By deploying recorders in multiple locations, you can monitor numerous sites at the same time. With recorders simultaneously gathering data from multiple sites, you will save time and reduce the costs associated with your research.
For example, with acoustic recorders, you’ll likely save on the cost of gas for your car, field gear, and man hours. This frees up funds to spend in other areas that better serve your study. Surely, you can imagine better ways to allocate those precious research dollars!
You might even be able to expand your research with the savings and set up recorders in even more hot spots.
To learn more about Wildlife Acoustic recorders, reach out to our team to get your questions answered, so you can begin the journey to your next discovery.
We have sales and support staff on hand with the technical expertise to help you make the most of your recorders.
In the spirit of reconciliation, Faunatech acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and their connections to land, sea and community. We pay our respect to Elders past and present and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples today.
6/269 Victoria Road
Rydalmere NSW 2116
Australia: (02) 8005 5343
International: +61 2 8005 5343