Scientific American and the Zooniverse present Whales Calls.
Marine mammals are not the only sources of sound under water. Many natural phenomena, such as wind, rain, ice, lightning strikes can produce loud sound. We humans are a major contributor to the sound under water. There is a growing concern that sound generated by human activities can affect marine mammals. Human activities, such as shipping, searching for oil/gas using seismic surveys, explosions, military tactical sonars, and offshore constructions can produce loud sounds that affect animals, with potentially negative consequences.
Different international research projects have been set up to address several of these issues by studying the effect of sound on the behavior of marine mammals. The aim of such ‘behavioral response studies’ is to try to understand how and why marine mammals respond to various sound stimuli. These studies are badly needed in order to establish regulations and guidelines to mitigate the impact of man-made sound on marine life.
Many of the sounds that you will hear in this project have been recorded during such behavioral response studies. In these experiments, the effect of sonar sound on killer whales and pilot whales is studied. What we find is that killer whales and pilot whales respond to sonar sounds amongst others by changing the calls that they make.
The communication of killer whales and pilot whales is still poorly understood. While we know for some species the general context in which sounds are made (reproduction, contact calls for finding each other) many of the calls remain a mystery to us. To properly understand the implications of these responses, we need to know more about why and when animals make specific calls. This process is very challenging especially for vocal species such as killer whales and pilot whales.
The increasing size of current acoustic datasets and the large call repertoire make it very difficult for scientists to address these questions. A single person would take months to go through the data, and the outcome would still depend on a single persons’ interpretation.
For this reason we want to ask you to help us solve this problem, by categorizing the calls of killer whales and pilot whales that you find on this website. The dataset generated by this project will allow us to address interesting questions, such as:
How well do different judgements of volunteers agree, and how well can we categorize calls of vocal species such as pilot whales?How large is the call repertoire of pilot whales? (is size repertoire sign of intelligence?)Do the long and short finned pilot whales have different call repertoires (or ‘dialects’?)
See on whale.fm