Sara Keen

Ph.D. Student
Sara Keen

I came to bioacoustics from the world of digital signal processing where I initially studied spectrogram-based pattern recognition and classification techniques developed for the analysis of human speech. I began applying these tools to answer ecological questions while working as a student intern at CCB, and subsequently became interested in developing visual representations of the acoustic environment and examining the complex social interactions facilitated by vocal signals. Following this I worked at the National University of Singapore’s Acoustics Research Laboratory studying dolphin echolocation and impulsive noise produced by snapping shrimp, and have been pursuing projects that combine biology and engineering ever since. At CCB, I’ve had the opportunity to investigate flight calls produced by migratory birds, infrasonic rumbles used by African forest elephants, and low frequency vocalizations of baleen whales.

My Ph.D. research explores patterns of counter-singing among territorial male Great Tits (Parus major) and how these reflect the structure of the underlying social network. A key part of this work is creating dynamic visualizations (sound maps) that illustrate the occurrence and propagation of vocal signals in time and space, which I measure with a synchronized microphone array.

I’m also interested in biologically inspired music composition, interactive sound installations, the use of acoustic feedback in control systems, subjective perception of the acoustic environment, and most topics that fall under the broader umbrella of information theory.

Year Hired: 2012


Contact Information

Cornell Lab of Ornithology, room # 156

159 Sapsucker Woods Road, Ithaca, NY 14850, USA.

Phone: +1.607.254.6296



Ph.D., Neurobiology and Behavior, Cornell University, in progress
M.A., Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Biology, Columbia University, 2011
M.S., Electrical Engineering, University of Florida, 2008
B.S., Electrical Engineering, University of Florida, 2006




Recent Publications

Salamon, J. et al. (2016) ‘Towards the automatic classification of avian flight calls for bioacoustic monitoring’, PLoS ONE. doi: 10.1371.
Keen, S. et al. (2016) ‘Song in a social and sexual context: vocalizations signal identity and rank in both sexes of a cooperative breeder’, Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, 4, p. 46. doi: 10.3389/fevo.2016.00046.
Griffiths, E. et al. (2016) ‘Can nocturnal flight calls of the migrating songbird, American Redstart, encode sexual dimorphism and individual identity?’, PLoS ONE, 11(6): e0156578, pp. 1–14. doi: doi: info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0160596.
Keen, S. C. et al. (2017) ‘Automated detection of low-frequency rumbles of forest elephants: A critical tool for their conservation’, The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 141. doi: 10.1121/1.4979476.
Wrege, P. H. et al. (2017) ‘Acoustic monitoring for conservation in tropical forests:examples from forest elephants’, Methods in Ecology and Evolution. doi: 10.1111/2041-210X.12730.