- Program Areas
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- Natural Resources
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Remote, Near-Real-Time, Autonomous Acoustic Monitoring of Military Lands for At-Risk Species
Patrick Wolff | US Army Engineer Research and Development Center, Construction Engineering Research Laboratory
Endangered Species Act-mandated surveys and monitoring of threatened and endangered species (TES) can be costly and time-intensive, particularly for rare or cryptic species. Passive acoustic monitoring is often used to survey for acoustically-active TES such as birds, bats and frogs; however, the data processing effort, technical expertise required, and associated delay in obtaining results is often prohibitive for installation managers and hampers their capacity for timely decision-making. Given limited resources, managers require cost-effective and time-saving solutions to meet the regulatory burden of TES monitoring and to avoid training conflicts. The objective of this project is to demonstrate a dynamic acoustic monitoring system that encompasses real-time and archival data collection, multi-species automated analysis and synthesis, and near-real-time reporting on the presence of federally listed species on military ranges. The project team will achieve this objective in a case study of bird species occurring on Pōhakuloa Training Area, Hawaii, where conflict between TES and military training poses a threat to military readiness.
The acoustic monitoring system (comprised of both archival and real time sensors) seamlessly records and classifies acoustic data from remote field locations, and then, in the case of the real-time sensors, transmits the results to a web-based dashboard interface for near-real-time reporting. The system consists of three elements: 1) autonomous recording units; 2) an automated algorithm, BirdNET, for detecting and classifying focal species; and 3) a web-based dashboard for automated reporting and verification of species occurrences in near-real-time. This technology would enable land managers to autonomously monitor multiple areas of interest simultaneously from the convenience and safety of the office, while reducing on-the ground species monitoring costs. The ability to react to the presence of TES in near-real-time is particularly critical when such species are highly mobile (e.g., birds) and have the potential to conflict with military operations without warning.
Warfighter readiness is impacted by an inability to de-conflict regulatory and policy drivers on maneuver lands to optimize land availability to units for training. This technology represents a significant leap forward in sustainable range management. It would enable range and land managers to access near-real-time spatial and temporal risk related to the presence of TES within the training space, providing a valuable tool for dynamic land use decisions based on current information. The web-based reporting interface may be used to alert managers to species presence, to monitor a running record of animal activity, and as a permanent archive that may be referenced to inform more efficient scheduling of training ranges. This technology would enable installation personnel to remotely survey sites that are otherwise difficult to access, such as impact areas or remote, mountainous terrain, thereby curtailing costs associated with travel to survey sites. Increasing the technical efficacy and decreasing the cost of avian monitoring addresses several compliance issues simultaneously (e.g., Endangered Species Act, Migratory Bird Treaty Act). Beyond birds, this technology could be adapted for any acoustically-active species (e.g., amphibians, bats), and has the potential to enhance the resilience of training lands, optimize land use, and ultimately improve Warfighter readiness.