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  4. From Soundscapes to Landscapes: Monitoring Animal Biodiversity from Space Using Citizen Scientists

From Soundscapes to Landscapes: Monitoring Animal Biodiversity from Space Using Citizen Scientists

Man setting up sound recording instrument to record bird song.

Image credit: Soundscapes to Landscapes.

Matthew Clark, Sonoma State University

Remote sensing is an important tool for long-term monitoring of biodiversity. Soundscapes to Landscapes combines bioacoustic data collected by citizen scientists with simulated satellite data to monitor bird biodiversity in the Mark West watershed in Sonoma County, California.

The Mark West watershed includes a wide range of undeveloped, urban, and agricultural landscapes. Soundscapes to Landscapes is using sound recordings collected by citizen scientists, affiliated with the Audubon Society, to map bird diversity across the watershed.

The volunteers place portable sound recorders (Android smartphones) in a variety of habitats in and around the Mark West watershed. The teams return to retrieve the recorders after a period of 2-5 days and upload the “soundscape” recordings to a cloud-based computer system. Experts within the birding community use a subset of the recordings to train a computer to identify bird species present in these field site recordings.

Man walking in field to set up sound recording equipment.

Image credit: Soundscapes to Landscapes.

The science team will use statistical modeling and satellite data to make maps of bird diversity based on the recordings collected by the citizen scientists. These maps will be combined with habitat models based on two of NASA’s cutting-edge sensors: Global Ecosystem Dynamics Investigation (GEDI) and Hyperspectral Infrared Imager (HyspIRI).

GEDI’s LIght Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) uses pulses of light to measure the heights of trees and understory plants, allowing scientists to create 3-D models of vegetation structure. (See how GEDI makes precise measurements.) HyspIRI’s “imaging spectrometer” creates images from hundreds of light measurements, including wavelengths that our eyes cannot observe. These images can detect canopy chemistry, including water and nitrogen content, that can be linked to ecosystem productivity and habitat quality. Data collected from these sensors will be used to understand species distribution and factors related to conserving bird diversity.

The Soundscapes to Landscapes project is a partnership among the Center for Interdisciplinary Geospatial Analysis (CIGA) at Sonoma State University, Point Blue Conservation Science, Audubon California, Pepperwood Preserve, Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District and Northern Arizona University.

Visit Soundscapes to Landscapes for more information.

Read more about NASA's Citizen Science for Earth Systems Program (CSESP).

Last Updated: Jun 11, 2019 at 1:21 PM EDT