How do you track rare birds if you don't know their songs? Researchers are hoping AI can help

One problem ecologists face when monitoring rare birds is that we don’t have enough recordings of them to utilize the various apps and software available for tracking.

To solve this, researchers are turning to deep learning AI to create a tool called ECOGEN that can mimic the songs of rare birds from small samples. It works by creating spectograms from recordings. These are visual representations of audio. New AI images are then generated from these. These new images are then converted back to audio that can continue to train bird sound identification models.

Whether it hallucinates, we don’t know, but it works. The researches say it’s improved song classification identification by 12 percent.

“Essentially, for species with limited wild recordings, such as those that are rare, elusive, or sensitive, you can expand your sound library without further disrupting the animals or conducting additional fieldwork,” Dr. Nicolas Lecomte, one of the project researchers, tells

Here’s another something neat:

The ECOGEN tool has other potential applications. For instance, it could be used to help conserve extremely rare species, like the critically endangered regent honeyeaters, where young individuals are unable to learn their species’ songs because there aren’t enough adult birds to model them.

The tool could benefit other types of animal as well. Dr. Lecomte added, “While ECOGEN was developed for birds, we’re confident that it could be applied to mammals, fish (yes, they can produce sounds), insects and amphibians.”

Researchers and the curious can find the open source repository on Github.

Seed Date:
November 2023

Despite being in its very early stages, artificial intelligence can do amazing things... like imitate David Attenborough in real time.

Fascinating. Creepy. Fun. Scary. We’re in the very early stages of artificial intelligence and people are already able to manipulate voices in real time.

Seed Date:
November 2023

Large-scale tree planting projects require a diversity of species that benefit human and non-human creatures alike. How to choose, and what to choose, is difficult. Fortunately, there's an app for that.

While there’s debate whether planting trees at scale can curb global warming, offsetting carbon emissions isn’t the only benefit of doing so. There are actually ten golden rules for reforestation that aim to restore ecological balance, improve biodiversity and improve resources for humans, animals and critters alike.

The human “usefulness” component is important. Getting local communities involved in tree planting campaigns is easier when they understand concrete benefits rather than abstract future possibilities.

Put another way:

Many current tree-planting initiatives for forest landscape restoration fail because they do not sufficiently consider the needs of the local communities who plant and tend them. In these situations, the planted trees are neglected and consequently do not survive to maturity. The range of species selected for use in restoration is furthermore limited, with an emphasis on easy-to-propagate exotic species that do not support biodiversity. To help address these concerns, the ’10 golden rules for reforestation’ were recently developed18. Among these ‘golden rules’ there is an emphasis on maximising native tree biodiversity and addressing local community needs to support success.

World Agroforestry, a research and development non-profit focused on food security and environmental sustainability, has identified approximately 14,000 trees around the world that are useful to humans. By useful, we mean species that provide materials, medicines and foods among other benefits.

Better, their data is public. And better yet, they have an app to help you filter through native trees by country, region and territory. It’s called GlobalUsefulNativeTrees – or GlobUNT – and it combines tree data from Botanic Gardens Conservation International with plant data from the World Checklist of Useful Plant Species.

Researchers have identified 4.2 billion acres (1.7 billion hectares) of treeless land where over a trillion native saplings could grow. To visualize the landmass, imagine combining the United States and China. Significantly, the land identified does not encroach on existing cropland or urban areas.

Again, carbon sequestration is a benefit, but so too creating healthy ecosystems. It’s not just putting trees in the ground.

This is where GlobUNT comes into play. By understanding the diversity of native trees and their benefits, we better equip ourselves to take on mindful planting at scale.

Somewhat Related: A new study suggests restoring global forests could capture 226 gigatons of carbon. With over 200 authors, the study seeks to clarify a 2019 paper that helped spur the Trillion Trees movement but also generated a scientific concern about potential greenwashing

Seed Date:
November 2023
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