Pattern Radio: Whale Songs

Check out a behind the scenes look at Pattern Radio: Whale Songs


What is Pattern Radio?

Zooming in shows you individual sounds, and highlights help you visualize patterns and repetition within the songs.

Why did we make it?

How did the project get started?

What can I do on the site?


How much audio has PIFSC recorded?

What audio is hosted on the site?

Locations of NOAA PIFSC HARPs in Google Maps (link).

How is the audio recorded?

A disassembled HARP at NOAA Pacific Island Fisheries Science Center equipment lab
NOAA research oceanographer Ann Allen (left) works onboard a research vessel and Google software engineer Matt Harvey (right) field tests the algorithm.

Why are underwater recordings important?

Why is listening to humpback whales important?

Humpback whales make all kinds of complex sounds (Footage courtesy of NOAA Fisheries)

What kind of sounds do humpback whales make?

Why do humpback whales sing?

How long have we known that humpback whales sing?

The site lets you explore thousands of hours of humpback whale songs using AI.

Using the site

What am I looking at on the site?

What is a spectrogram and how does it work?

A spectrogram of a humpback whale singing.

How does the heat map work?

The heat map shows where humpback whales were detected.

Why are sounds being highlighted when I zoom in?

Highlights help visualize patterns and repetitions of individual sounds within the songs.

Can I use my trackpad?

What kind of sounds can I find?

A humpback whale making a sequence of upward bloop sounds on Feb 25, 2015.
Larger patterns form as a humpback whale sings over the course of an hour on Jan 23, 2015.
A ship passing on Dec 28, 2014.

Can I share what I find?

About the Tech

How does the site work?

How are you displaying all of this in the browser?

How was the machine learning model trained?

How does the highlighting of similar sounds work?

About the team + what’s next?

Who is involved in the project?

  • Ann Allen is a research oceanographer in the Cetacean Research Program at NOAA’s Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center. She earned her Ph.D. in Biological Oceanography from the Joint Program between MIT and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Ann first reached out to Google to solve the problem of “too much data” back in 2018 and has been collaborating with Google AI ever since.
  • Matt Harvey is a software engineer on Google’s AI perception team. He’s been integral in creating the AI model, and has been collaborating closely with Ann and NOAA on this project, even joining them for a research cruise on the NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette this past April.
  • Christopher Clark is a pioneer in the field of bioacoustics. Having recently retired from the Bioacoustics Research Program at Cornell University (a program he founded 30 years ago) Chris consults with many marine biology and conservation groups and is focused on spreading scientific awareness and advocacy through films and outreach.
  • Annie Lewandowski is a Senior Lecturer in the department of music at Cornell University, is a composer/performer whose work in song and improvisation has led to explorations of the creative minds of humpback whales with pioneering bioacoustics researcher Katy Payne and the Hawai’i Marine Mammal Consortium.
  • David Rothenberg is a musician, philosopher and Distinguished Professor at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. He’s written about his efforts to make music, live with whales, in Thousand Mile Song, one of his many publications. He has performed or recorded with Pauline Oliveros, Peter Gabriel, Ray Phiri, Suzanne Vega, Scanner, Elliot Sharp, Iva Bittová, and the Karnataka College of Percussion. Nightingales in Berlin is his latest book, CD, and film.

And thank you to …

  • The seventh graders from our one-day workshop who asked so many thoughtful questions and inspired us with their new observations
  • All of our friends across Google teams that helped along the way — at Creative Lab, PAIR, Google AI and more
  • Our collaborators at NOAA PIFSC for making this whole project possible

What’s next?

Where can I learn more?




Google Creative Lab

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Alexander Chen

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Google Creative Lab

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