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Technology

Technical innovation has been a hallmark of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology since 1929, when Cornell Lab founder Arthur Allen and colleagues used motion picture film to capture the first sound recordings of North American birds.

Cornell engineers later developed the parabolic microphone and portable tape recorder, enabling people to record animals around the world. Many of these recordings are archived in the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Macaulay Library, today the world’s largest collection of natural sounds.

This spirit of innovation and exploration live on today, as our scientists, engineers, and computer programmers invent new tools for the digital age to understand the natural world and protect wildlife.

Project Highlights

The Macaulay Library Archive

The Lab’s Macaulay Library is the world’s largest online archive of natural sound audio and video recordings. The collection is always growing as both amateur and professional recordists submit their media online. Researchers, educators, and anyone, anywhere can explore the online archive. Listen to recordings of a given species, watch video of captivating animal behavior. Learn how you can contribute recordings.

eBird

eBird’s global reach allows birders to keep track of their personal lists and collects vast amounts of data that can be used for science and conservation. eBird can generate graphs, maps, and detailed analysis tools to help scientists better understand patterns of bird occurrence and the environmental and human factors that influence them. eBird is a joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society.

The Birds of North America

Birds of North AmericaThe Birds of North America is the preeminent source of life history information for more than 750 bird species that breed in the United States and Canada. This comprehensive resource is authored by experts on each species. Each species account includes information on systematics, distribution, identification, behavior, breeding biology, and conservation along with photos, audio, and video. It is maintained by the Cornell Lab in partnership with the American Ornithological Society.

Neotropical Birds

Neotropical Birds is an innovative collaboration of researchers, birders, and the conservation community to create an authoritative online resource with life histories of Neotropical birds from Mexico and the Caribbean to South America. Learn more about birds south of the border and consider contributing your own information, sounds, video, or translations.

Capturing Animal Sounds

Cornell Lab scientists and engineers build and deploy automated recording devices that capture the sounds of animals on land or in the ocean. Underwater devices help decipher marine mammal communication, census populations, and gauge the impact of human-caused noise pollution. Land-based recording units monitor endangered birds, forest elephants, and other animals in remote and inhospitable places. Automated recording devices also document the calls of songbirds that migrate overhead at night.

Analyzing Animal Sounds

The massive amount of digital acoustic data gathered by our remote recordings devices created the need for a way to automatically scan all that data to pull out sounds of interest for further study. Sound analysis software created at the Cornell Lab, called Raven and Raven Lite, is used by scientists and anyone interested in animal vocalizations to display sounds visually as spectrograms so they can be measured and analyzed.

Monitoring Bird Migration

Most songbird migration happens at night, when it’s hard to detect. With durable, autonomous recording devices programmed to run for months at a time in remote sites, we gather information about the timing, location, and species composition of nocturnal bird migration. These audio recordings describe massive movements of migrating birds, information that is crucial for conservation planning.

Tracking Migration Over the Gulf of Mexico

Each spring and fall, hundreds of millions of birds make a 600-mile, nonstop flight across the Gulf of Mexico. There is still much basic natural history we do not know about this specific migration path. We are collaborating with the University of Delaware, the Smithsonian Institution, abd Oklahoma University to study migration patterns in this region using weather surveillance radar. This is part of a project funded by National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the Southern Company.

The Macaulay Library Archive

The Lab’s Macaulay Library is the world’s largest online archive of natural sound audio and video recordings. The collection is always growing as both amateur and professional recordists submit their media online. Researchers, educators, and anyone, anywhere can explore the online archive. Listen to recordings of a given species, watch video of captivating animal behavior. Learn how you can contribute recordings.

Protecting North Atlantic Right Whales

We use our underwater devices to record, monitor, and protect endangered North Atlantic right whales along the East Coast. Fewer than 500 of these animals remain. We use this information to understand how whales are affected by energy exploration, shipping, and other human activities. With partners, we have established the Right Whale Listening Network in Massachusetts Bay to notify ship captains to slow down when right whales are detected nearby, preventing deadly collisions.

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