Email Print Share
Science Nation banner

August 21, 2017

Decades of bird signals, songs digitized for scientific research


Cornell Lab of Ornithology leads 21st century makeover for animal behavior studies

The world's largest scientific archive of animal signal recordings, the Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds, is partnering with other institutions to co-curate and digitize an enormous archive of animal audio and video recordings from the library's vaults.

The analog material in the library's collection at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology includes recordings of mainly birds, but also frogs, fish and insects, going back a few decades. The collections are a bonanza for animal behaviorists, who use the archives to study birds and other animals from all over the world, including some that are now extinct, such as the imperial woodpecker.

Accessible digital audio recordings of animal signals will make it easier for researchers to investigate a host of scientific questions, including what can scientists learn about the responses of animals to anthropogenic noise and other human activities.

By providing a useful co-curation system and encouraging collection of recordings along with physical specimens, this project is expected to transform the way researchers collect and use biological specimens in the future.

The research in this episode is supported by NSF award #1304425, Collaborative Research: Digitization - Thematic Collections Networks: Developing a Centralized Digital Archive of Vouchered Animal Communication Signals.

Miles O'Brien, Science Nation Correspondent
Kate Tobin, Science Nation Producer


Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations presented in this material are only those of the presenter grantee/researcher, author, or agency employee; and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.