October 21, 2007

Animal Bioacoustics & Speech Processing

I‘m in Milwaukee for a conference (about which probably more later), and was happy to have the local newspaper, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, delivered to my hotel room rather than a bland national paper.

Even better, there is a fascinating animal & cognitive science story on the front page. Decoding Calls of Wild is about Marquette engineering professor Michael Johnson and The Dr. Dolittle Project. The Project's goal is to "...develop a broadly useable framework for pattern analysis and classification of animal vocalizations, by integrating successful models and ideas from the field of speech processing and recognition into bioacoustics."

The Journal-Sentinel describes Johnson's work, saying that the Dolittle project "... has broad applications, from keeping animals happy in captivity to developing a precise census of endangered species from recordings in the wild." Johnson has worked with folks at the National Undersea Research Center of the University of Connecticut; the Journal-Sentinel says that the project "enabled scientists at University of Connecticut to show that beluga whales engage in a human response to noise known as the Lombard effect. Like friends trying to talk over the din at a party, whales raise their voices to be heard over the drone of ships in the St. Lawrence River estuary."

Read more about the project and see a chart explaining how the vocalizations are extracted and classified. Listen to some of the sounds (whales, prairie dogs, and elephants among them) and see audio spectrograms of the sounds at the Journal-Sentinel.

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