Mobile phones to eavesdrop on koalas
The distinctive deep grunts and belows of the male Koalas sound in Australian forests in spring, but researchers still don’t understand what they mean.
Noises from koalas on St Bees Island off the coast of Mackay, in central Queensland, are now being relayed to a Brisbane laboratory via mobile phone technology.
University of Queensland koala researcher Dr Bill Ellis said the information was fed into an acoustic database, and Queensland University of Technology (QUT) researchers were developing software to recognise koala calls automatically.
“We are studying whether males are talking to other males, or to females, and how vocalisations might stimulate breeding behaviour in female koalas,” Dr Ellis said.
QUT Professor Richard Mason said the technology, used at Brisbane Airport to research bird calls, was a good way for Dr Ellis to eavesdrop on the marsupials without disturbing them.
Prof Mason said microphones connected to the phones monitored the island’s acoustic environment for two minutes every half hour.
“The sensors are remote controlled, so that if we want to change the recording schedule in response to data on when the calls are most prevalent, for example, we can,” he said.
The team is excited about the data it has collected so far, as well as the prospect of adapting the technology to other eco systems.