Research Programs

Carol Bloomgarden
Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds
Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology
Ithaca, New York 14850

Creating a Web-based Library of Underwater Biological Sounds

Listening underwater for Russian submarines during the Cold War is now bringing us new gifts from the sea — now researchers will now soon be able to analyze old tapes, recorded for use by the Navy to train sonar technicians to identify "biologics," (non-man-made sounds) and help them understand more about underwater communication than ever before. Combining the talents of marine acousticians, biologists, programmers, sound engineers, and audio archivists, among others, the Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds (MLNS) at the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology is creating a Marine Animal Sounds Archive to pull thousands of hours of recordings from over 80 individuals and institutions together to be digitized and made available over the internet.

Dolphins, whales, seals, fish, and other marine species have long been known to make sounds. Establishing an archive of fish and other underwater biological sounds will meet many of the long-standing challenges faced by marine acousticians — the restoration and preservation of deteriorating recordings, the ability to catalogue their sounds and data in a way that fosters exchange and sharing of data, easy access to the sounds for analysis and identification, and the capacity to search through passive recordings for sounds of particular interest.

Through the Marine Animal Sounds Archive, users will be able to compare and analyze recordings that had previously been too fragile to play or that were not even known to exist outside of one individual’s collection or a now-defunct institutionprivately-held and largely inaccessible. Researchers will be able to annotate their sounds through an online database application, summarize search results in exportable tables and maps, and download copies of recordings for research, teaching, and conservation.