People frequently tell me they have always loved animals and wish they had followed their dream of working with them. Many are also intrigued by science and would be thrilled to play even a small role in discovering something new. Well now there is an opportunity for those people—for you—to become citizen scientists and contribute to knowledge of whale communication. You can even do it right from your computer. It’s called Whale FM.
This exciting online program was developed by an innovative team of researchers who realized more ears are better when it comes to analyzing acoustic data (that is, sounds). Orcas and Pilot whales use sophisticated arrays of sounds, or calls, to communicate with one another. By recording those calls with hydrophones and studying them, scientists may begin to understand what the whales are saying.
Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to help the researchers group similar sounding whale calls together. Basically, you are presented with an audio clip of one call along with a spectograph and an oceanic map showing where in the world the call was recorded. Then you are given several other clips that are potential matches. After carefully listening, you decide whether a pair can be made. It’s a fun challenge. Forget the game apps, this may become your new addiction!
Moreover, if/when these whale calls have someday been translated into a language humans understand, you can tell your grandchildren that you were part of the research team. I tend to think those would be some pretty solid bragging rights.