The Elephant Listening Project (ELP) is spearheading the largest ever acoustic monitoring project of a terrestrial environment. ELP director, Dr. Peter Wrege, recently embarked on a trip to the Republic of Congo to install a mesh of acoustic recording units. The mesh will cover 2000 km²; half of Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park.
ELP’s acoustic recording provides many advantages over the conventional forest elephant population survey method. The method, known as dung transect surveying, requires incredible work and time. Researchers designate long straight lines (2 km — 5 km) in the forest. Over the course of a day they walk along this transect, looking for elephant dung. The amount of dung can roughly indicate the population of elephants in the area, but with many transects to be counted, the method is quite time-consuming. Our hope is that ELP’s acoustic monitoring will prove to be more effective on a larger scale than current methods.
Peter and local researchers will install 50 recording units. Every 4 months, these recording units will capture 8 TB of audio data, containing valuable insights into forest elephant activity. We can use this data to measure the efficacy of anti-poaching efforts and learn more about how the population changes over the 4 months. However, these 140,000 hours of audio are simply overwhelming to ELP’s resources. To solve this problem of scale, Cornell Computer Science faculty are working on a citizen science platform. Anyone with an internet connection will be able to help us find elephant rumbles and gunshots. If this proves successful, the platform can enable us to make many discoveries. We hope to have your support when we launch this platform next spring.