Stephen Marsland and Isabel Castro received Marsden Fund in this latest round to work on their project AviaNZ: Making Sure New Zealand Birds Are Heard.
Stephen Marsland and Isabel Castro with Blandy the kiwi
New Zealand has amazing birdlife: nocturnal parrots, birds that can't fly, and birds that turn up after 50 years of being thought extinct. Unfortunately, many native species require wildlife management programmes, and they are hard to monitor: they are often well-camouflaged or nocturnal. How can you discern what works in wildlife management if you don't know how many animals there are and how the number changes? Most birds make sound, and so there is a real need for a system that can detect, recognise, analyse, and infer bird populations using automated sound recorders. However, data from these recorders is noisy and extremely variable in factors such as volume. In this project we will work to reliably detect and recognise birdsong from these recordings, and estimate the abundance of birds from the number of calls, by developing mathematical and computational tools to analyse sound, and combining them with ecological experiments to understand how calls relate to population estimates. This inter-disciplinary project will combine fundamental and practical work in theoretical and experimental science to develop sound solutions in both areas. Our work will be made publicly available through our AviaNZ software platform, which is already used by conservation groups across the country.