Now this is a neat use of technology, from MSNBC
Scientists talk to owls on cell phones
Researchers found birds responded to hoots and trills from mobile
By Charles Q. Choi
Updated: 12:56 p.m. ET Sept 7, 2007
Cellular phones can be used to talk with owls in the wild, researchers
Beyond phone calls consisting entirely of "Who?" placing networks of
cell phones in the wild could help call to and listen for birds and
beasts, enabling researchers to study faraway wildlife in their
"We're in talks to set up such networks in Costa Rica, Sri Lanka and
Papua New Guinea," researcher Dale Joachim, an MIT electrical
engineer, told LiveScience. "It might be good for ecotourism, to hear
the richness of sound there."
Currently, wildlife biologists monitor birds and beasts by repeatedly
venturing into the field to call out and listen for responses. "It
dawned on me that could in part be automated," Joachim said.
Joachim, with biologist Eben Goodale and colleagues, first tested
phones in the wild last year by wandering for a few hours around
midnight in the woods of northeastern Connecticut, rigging phones for
owls in autumn.
The researchers employed cell phones modified to listen via
microphones and "talk" via loudspeakers. The team next placed calls to
the phones using a Web site that plays library audio clips of the
barred owl (Strix varia) and Eastern screech owl (Megascops asio).
Joachim had some familiarity with the avian world as he kept owls and
raptors as pets when he was young. These were injured birds that he
nursed back to health.
Despite concerns that cell phone audio quality was too poor for calls,
the researchers found the owls responded just as well to hoots and
trills over mobile phones as those played back on CD players. The
phones also generally picked up calls from owls well, too.
In the future, Joachim said, "you could imagine listening to the
sounds of birds from remote areas in your office over the Web, instead
of music." In the meantime, the state of Maine plans to deploy such
cell phones in an annual survey of owls beginning in March 2008.
Joachim and Goodale detailed their findings online on Aug. 22 in the
journal Biology Letters.
© 2007 LiveScience.com. All rights reserved.
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