Technology Fact Sheet

November 2005

Using modern technology, the ivory-bill search team can see and hear more than they could with human eyes and ears alone. Digital cameras and sound recorders can be deployed in remote locations that would be difficult to reach with any frequency otherwise. The gear is camouflaged and reduces disturbance to the bird and its behavior that the presence of a human searcher might cause. These devices also provide the kind of constant coverage that would be impossible with human searchers alone.  Listed below are the technologies being used during the 2005–2006 field season.

Remote time-lapse video systems:

Digital video cameras attached to trees will be used to provide constant surveillance of potential ivory-bill cavities and feeding sites. The rate at which these cameras take pictures is adjustable from one frame per second to one every few minutes. They are left in the field for 3 to 10 days. The data are analyzed the same day they are collected.

Remote motion/heat-triggered still cameras:

When all the units are deployed there will be as many as 20 of these camera units installed in the search areas. The cameras use integrated infrared heat-and-motion sensors that can be adjusted for frequency of picture-taking and degree of sensitivity. They are used primarily to monitor feeding trees in the hope of capturing an image of a foraging ivory-billed woodpecker.

Remote sound-recording:

Autonomous recording units developed by the Bioacoustics Research Program at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology will be strapped to trees in the search areas for four weeks at a time. These ARUs contain a hard drive housed in a length of PVC pipe along with an array of microphones covered by a furry wind sock. They are powered by two 6-volt lantern batteries. They are programmed to record eight hours a day, four hours in the morning and four in the evening. The information is downloaded from the ARUs to a larger hard drive and sent to the Lab of Ornithology for acoustic analysis.

Sound analysis:

Once the ARU recordings are returned, two Cornell-developed sound visualization and measurement programs are used to scan the recordings for items of special interest. The XBAT program filters out and highlights recordings of interest, and the Raven software allows human analysts to explore and compare sounds in visual form, i.e. spectrograms.

GPS Units:

Crew-members use GPS units during transect searches. While walking or canoeing a prescribed path, the GPS unit tracks their movements. These data are then uploaded to a computer and superimposed on a map of the area. Search leaders can see which areas have been covered and where any gaps may have occurred.

Field video/audio recording units:

Each searcher is equipped with a video camera. Although these cameras come with built-in microphones, the sensitivity of the unit has now been augmented with the addition of shotgun microphones to increase the odds of capturing ivory-bill sounds.