ILWS - Charles Sturt University
ILWS - Charles Sturt University

Bio-Acoustic Observatory:Engaging birdwatchers to monitor biodiversity by collaboratively collecting and analysing big audio data (2014-2017)

Strategic Research Area

Biodiversity Conservation


ARC Discovery grant. Total value $477,000. ILWS sub-contract $152,940


Professor Paul Roe, QUT, Professor Margot Bereton, QUT, Professor David  M Watson, ILWS & Dr Maggie Watson, ILWS


Listening deviceThis project aimed to establish an "acoustic observatory" for ecological and environmental research. By teaming up acoustic recorders with automated call recognition validated using crowd-sourcing, the researchers have created an online storehouse of natural sounds from a wide range of localities.  While eventually extending to all natural sounds (including frogs, insects, bats and various other mammals) this initial proof-of concept project used birds, collecting acoustic data and using machine learning and volunteer birders to identify calls to species.  Once catalogued, these data will then be accessible to researchers and the general public, representing an alternative source of data for researchers to address a number of ecological questions without needing to undertake dedicated fieldwork.

The research team included post-doctoral researcher Dr Maggie Watson and PhD students Jason Wimmer and Jessie Cappadonna. Stations were installed along four creek-lines in Sturt National Park, where Prof Watson has been surveying birds for the last 13 years.

This project was the "springboard" for a successful ARC Linkage Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities (LIEF) grant - Acoustic Observatory: a network to monitor biodiversity across Australia. (2017-2020) ARC LIEF project ($900,000) led by Queensland University of Technology with ILWS team members Watson, D., Luck, G. & Nimmo, D which is being used to purchase and site 400 automated acoustic recorders at 100 sites around Australia.


The outcomes this project include:

  • New approaches to physical/virtual engagement in human-computer interaction
  • New approaches to analysing big data
  • A new validated ecological monitoring technique and concepts for sustainable knowledge generation communities.


Smith, D. (2017)  Using long-duration acoustic data to track irruptive species—a comparison of analytical approaches to localise needles in haystacks  Australasian Ornithological Conference, Geelong, Victoria November  8-11.

Smith, D. (2017) Project using remote acoustic sensors. Australian Wildlife Sound Recording Conference, Baradine, NSW. September 6-11.

Watson, D. (2017) Establishing a national acoustic observatory - listening in to Nature at the continental scale, Eco TAS 2017 The Ecological Society of Australia  and the New Zealand Ecological Society joint conference, Hunter Valley, NSW, Nov 26 to Dec 1

Znidersic, E., Towsey, M., Truskinger, A., Watson, D.M., Roe, P. (2017) Sounding out marsh birds-automated classification techniques for acoustic data. International Bioacoustic Congress, Haridwar, India. October 8-13

Znidersic, E., Towsey, M., Truskinger, A., Watson, D.M., Roe, P. (2017) Sounding out marsh birds-automated classification techniques for acoustic data. Australasian Ornithological Conference, Geelong, Australia. November 8-11.

Znidersic, E. (2017) Camera traps are an effective monitoring tool for low detectability species-tales of rails. Australian Mangrove and Saltmarsh Network Conference in Hobart, Tasmania, March 20-24


Professor David M Watson
Charles Sturt University Albury-Wodonga

March 2019