Bioacoustic Research

Assessing Biodiversity Using Sound Recordings – An example of research performed at the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin (Karl-Heinz Frommolt)

By Museum für Naturkunde Berlin

Animal Sound Archive of the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin - Photo 04 (cropped detail) by Hwa Ja Götz (MfN)Museum für Naturkunde Berlin

The Animal Sound Archive at the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin is one of the oldest and largest collections of animal voices worldwide. It was founded in 1951 for scientific research in the field of behavioural biology and comprises now 120.000 sound recordings. The major part of the old analogue tapes has been already transformed in digital format. Digital recording and processing techniques open up new fields of application.

Animal Sound Archive of the Museum für Naturkunde - Tape recorder (Photographer: Andreas Wessel) by Andreas Wessel (MfN)Museum für Naturkunde Berlin

This open-reel tape recorder was used for the first audio recordings in the 1950th. Weighting 40 kg and depending from a power plug the device hardly could be used for recordings of animals in the wild.

Animal Sound Archive of the Museum für Naturkunde - Spectrogramm Tawny Owl by Karl-Heinz Frommolt (MfN)Museum für Naturkunde Berlin

Waldkauz - Aufnahme Günter Tembrock, Tierstimmenarchiv des Museums für Naturkunde, Berlin
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Through acoustic analyses animal vocalizations can be objectively described in the frequency and time domain. Even old sound recordings, like the oldest wildlife recording in the archive, have a good quality and are suitable for acoustic analysis. This recording of a tawny owl was made on October 30th 1951. Only the running noise of the tape recorder is a bit annoying.

Animal Sound Archive of the Museum für Naturkunde - Spectrogramm Chaffinch by Karl-Heinz Frommolt (MfN)Museum für Naturkunde Berlin

Buchfink - Aufnahme Karl-Heinz Frommolt, Tierstimmenarchiv des Museums für Naturkunde, Berlin
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Bird vocalisations very often have a very complex acoustic structure like the song of a chaffinch.

Animal Sound Archive of the Museum für Naturkunde - Spectrogramm Savi’s warbler by Karl-Heinz Frommolt (MfN)Museum für Naturkunde Berlin

Rohrschwirl - Aufnahme Karl-Heinz Frommolt, Tierstimmenarchiv des Museums für Naturkunde, Berlin
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But there also appear monotonous songs as the buzzing sounds of a Savi’s warbler.

Animal Sound Archive of the Museum für Naturkunde - Spectrogramm Spotted Crake by Karl-Heinz Frommolt (MfN)Museum für Naturkunde Berlin

Tüpfelsumpfhuhn - Aufnahme Karl-Heinz Frommolt, Tierstimmenarchiv des Museums für Naturkunde, Berlin
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The song of the nocturnal Spotted Crake, consisting of whipping notes, is very easy to recognize.

Animal Sound Archive of the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin - Photo 04 by Hwa Ja Götz (MfN)Museum für Naturkunde Berlin

The sound recordings stored in the Animal Sound Archive provide us with an excellent reference material, enabling us to apply modern methods of acoustic signal analysis and detect automatically bird species within a very complex soundscape. We focus on application scenarios, where an acoustic approach has significant advantages over the acquisition by a human observer.

Animal Sound Archive of the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin - Photo 03, cropped by Karl-Heinz Frommolt (MfN)Museum für Naturkunde Berlin

In Mecklenburg, numerous former bogs are being restored. Where 10 years ago were meadows covered the landscape, today a large wetland provides habitat for many rare marsh and aquatic birds.

Animal Sound Archive of the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin - Photo 04 by Klaus-Henry TauchertMuseum für Naturkunde Berlin

In the wetland area calibrated long-term acoustic recordings were created using multi-channel recorders.

Animal Sound Archive of the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin - Photo 05 by Karl-Heinz Frommolt (MfN)Museum für Naturkunde Berlin

A solar-powered autonomous unit enables automatic recording of ambient noise.

Sunset, recording animal sounds in the evening (Photo 06) by Karl-Heinz Frommolt (MfN)Museum für Naturkunde Berlin

Kulisse_Kummerow - Aufnahme Karl-Heinz Frommolt (Tierstimmenarchiv des Museums für Naturkunde Berlin)
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Many bird species are only active when the sun has set. The natural nocturnal soundscape is very complex.

Animal Sound Archive of the Museum für Naturkunde - Spectrogramm Background Kummerow by Karl-Heinz Frommolt (MfN)Museum für Naturkunde Berlin

Kulisse_Kummerow - Aufnahme Karl-Heinz Frommolt (Tierstimmenarchiv des Museums für Naturkunde Berlin)
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It is a challenge to reliably detect individual calls in this cacophony.

Animal Sound Archive of the Museum für Naturkunde - Pattern recognition Spotted Crake by Karl-Heinz Frommolt (MfN)Museum für Naturkunde Berlin

Methods of acoustic pattern recognition enable to reliably detect individual calls of Spotted Crakes (SpCr) in the spectrogram. As template clean calls were used from the Animal Sound Archive were used. The marks were set automatically by the program (Avisoft SASLabPro, © Avisoft). The automated analysis allows investigate even several days of continuous recordings.

Credits: Story

Images: Karl-Heinz Frommolt, Hwaja Götz, Klaus Henry Tauchert, Andreas Wessel
Audio: Karl-Heinz Frommolt, Günter Tembrock
Spectrograms were created using Rava Pro Version 1,4 (© Cornell Lab of Ornithology)
Text: Karl-Heinz Frommolt (Museum für Naturkunde Berlin)

© www.naturkundemuseum.berlin

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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