Who are the people behind this project?
The project is a collaborative effort between Laura Sebastianelli, naturalist & sound recordist, and Seth Benz, Schoodic Institute‘s Director of Bird Ecology. Additional project volunteers have included sound recordists Laura Gooch, Phil Green, and David Kazdan who also shared their exceptional skills in a special one-week service workshop.
Why are we recording the sounds of the birds at Acadia National Park?
For certain, birds, and the landscapes and soundscapes of which they are a part, contribute to our sense of place. Biologically speaking, one of the many things that make Acadia National Park special is that it lies in a transition zone between the Carolinian and Boreal zones of North America. In general, there is greater biodiversity in transition zones. Yet for some species who may already be at the northern-most or southern-most part of their range, there is less flexibility for change in the life conditions they require. Research in places like Acadia National Park therefore can offer a unique lens on current and future impacts of Climate Change to ecological systems.
Birds have long served as a sentinel species. And, because birds are often heard before they are seen, bird sounds helps us monitor birds — whether you are a casual birder or a professional.
We have recorded in June 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020 because most of the migrants have already passed thru on their way farther north, and most breeding here have just arrived. Throughout June, song birds are communicating to define and defend their territories, to attract a mate, share info about food sources and predators, and keep in contact with their mate, and/or young, and more.
As we began thinking about exploring some of our research questions, we knew we wanted to begin to use Autonomous Recording Units sometime in the future, specifically Cornell’s SWIFT units. (In fact, we have piloted several units in the field in 2018 and 2019.) And we also knew that programs using artificial intelligence to analyze autonomous recording units are not yet able to ID all sounds. So, we figured it would be most helpful to begin to build our own library of sounds for identification (and more), and, in time, train volunteers to help us analyze the data.
Our recordings would supplement other recordings in the Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. We’d figured our own library would have characteristics of species, and backgrounds sounds, that are likely unique to our location, or region, and this time in history. For instance, we are aware that the impacts of climate change will be seen first and more dramatically in places like Acadia – places that bridge two zones: both the Boreal and Carolinian life zones (zones so named for the habitats they represent). And of course, our library of bird sounds can be used for our future education and outreach efforts. And we’ve got lots of ideas already!
We have now recorded bird sounds for four consecutive years during the month of June, resulting in a solid start to the Bird Sounds of Acadia National Park.