Why do scientists sample populations

Press release: What remains hidden from the ear: Use of recorders for animal species monitoring

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No. 115 - 06/18/2019

A research team led by Göttingen compares traditional and modern survey methods

(pug) For a long time, ecologists relied on their senses when it came to recording animal populations and biodiversity. For animals that make sounds, modern programmable sound recording devices are now the better option. Scientists headed by the University of Göttingen have investigated this using the example of bird studies. The results are in the journal Ecological Applications published.

"Human-based data acquisition is less reliable, only provides approximate values, and is difficult to standardize and check," says first author Dr. Kevin Darras from the Department of Crop Science at the University of Göttingen. For the comparison, the international research team created a systematic overview based on data from previous bird studies. In addition to the collected sound recordings, the scientists also compared the usefulness of both methods.

The result: sound recording devices can deliver the same data as what humans perceive through hearing and vision. Sound recordings can be used to measure population densities and map territories of individual species. They can also record entire soundscapes and better measure animal activity over long periods of time. "In a previous meta-analysis we had already found that recording devices recognize at least as many species as traditional ornithologists with manual survey," says Darras. Further advantages: The huge amounts of data can be checked, archived and automatically evaluated by computer programs in order to automatically identify animal species.

“There are now very cheap, small devices that can accommodate large numbers over long periods of time and in large rooms. In an increasingly data-driven time, they are the better choice. ”In addition to the systematic comparison, the study also provides guidelines for scientists who acoustically sample animal populations. The authors give an overview of the recorders currently available and discuss how they work.

Original publication: Kevin Darras et al. Autonomous sound recording outperforms human observation for sampling birds: a systematic map and user guide. Ecological Applications (2019). https://doi.org/10.1002/eap.1954


Dr. Kevin Darras

Georg-August-University Goettingen

Department of Crop Science

Department of Agroecology

Grisebachstrasse 6, 37073 Göttingen

Telephone (0551) 39-33734

Email: [email protected]