Bioacoustics, monitoring and open data at the MBRPosted by in News
Brian Mitchell, the Coordinator of the Northeast Temperate Network (NETN) and a team of data and ecology specialists of the Inventory and Monitoring (I&M) Program are based in the mansion on the grounds of the MBR National Park. The NETN was established by the US National Park Service to monitor ecological conditions in 12 parks located in seven northeastern states as well as six additional states and the Appalachian Trail.
I had an opportunity to interview Brian in his office last week on a variety of topics including data monitoring in the park and his bioacoustics research on Coyote vocalizations in Northern California (that’s Brian in the screenshot above, the offices are former Rockefeller family bedrooms and due to their historical significance things like that goofy floral wallpaper can’t be changed!). I was really excited about this interview because it was the first time I have gotten a chance to interview a real bioacoustician – they actually exist and do fascinating work!
In the same suite in the Rockefeller mansion is Adam Kozlowski, Data Manager and Biologist for the NETN I&M. Adam has been very generous and helpful to me as I try to understand a little bit about the I&M data monitoring, including the bat acoustic monitoring project (more on that below). Adam is the lead on a huge project that takes the massive ongoing open data collection of the National Park’s Integrated Resource Management Applications (aka IRMA) including raw data like sound recordings, images, graphs, reports, and scans of hand-written data sheets and scientist’s field notes, and puts them into an easily accessible and searchable google map interface. Download the kmz here: http://science.nature.nps.gov/im/units/netn/googleMaps/parkMaps_GoogleEarth.cfm
Screenshot of the Google Map interface showing the large number of data collection points in the MBR park. It has been great to hear how important easy and open data access is to Adam and the National Park Service. I wonder if what is happening with National Park data has any connection to Obama’s Open Government initiative started in 2009? (also see data.gov)
Adam connected me to the Forest Monitoring Team, which comes through the park every year to measure the health of the forest. I was able to meet Evan Heck and Thomas Faust in the field and document some of their work. Here they are looking at the health of the leaves of one of the study trees.
Adam also connected me to the expressive conservation biologist Kent McFarland, who was kind enough to grant me an interview a few days ago. Although Kent is an ornithologist primarily, his work at the Vermont Center for Ecostudies has brought him in contact with bees and bats as well, and he was the PI on a bioacoustical bat biodiversity study on the MBR park in 2001 and 2011.
Kent is a biologist with a very funny, creative and poetic mind, evident in this article about his work with bees in the VT Digger, and my interview with him focusing on the bat study was no exception as we moved into tangents like the ethics of biotech in the context of environmental crises. A talented photographer, he passed this image and this image of the process of tagging little brown bats to me from his flickr feed. Kent also played one of the converted bat call recordings for me on his computer that sounded wild, like synthesizer techno music – I am really looking forward to a chance experiment with these.
Here is a link to a pdf report on Kent’s 2001 bat survey.
Below is the audio of our interview: