Home Lead Story Researchers E...

Researchers Explain How They Tracked Migrating Birds

Arrival times of migratory song birds is really important for their reproductive success

0
//
This June 18, 2016, photo provided by the U.S. Geological Survey shows a Yellow Warbler in Nome, Alaska
This June 18, 2016, photo provided by the U.S. Geological Survey shows a Yellow Warbler in Nome, Alaska, VOA

Tracking wildlife migration has been historically difficult in the rugged terrain of Alaska. Researchers primarily rely on either surveys or GPS tracking to understand bird migration patterns. Both methods are expensive, either in terms of time or money. And the trackers are often too large or heavy.

One way to sidestep these common issues is to record audio from frequently used nesting grounds. Using birdsong allows researchers to unobtrusively study the animals, although there’s a downside. Each day produces a flood of audio recordings from multiple microphones placed around nesting grounds. It takes trained listeners endless hours to search the noisy soundscape for birdsong.

In a recently published paper in the journal Science Advances, U.S. researchers explain how they got around these tracking troubles. Columbia University ecologist Ruth Oliver and her fellow collaborators replaced the human ears with machine learning algorithms to listen to birdsong.

Costly proposition

Oliver told VOA News, “Arrival times of migratory song birds is really important for their reproductive success. And obviously sending people to the Arctic to do field work is very expensive and takes a lot of time” — hence, the scientists’ interest in creating an automated method for tracking bird species.

Oliver and her colleagues focused on migratory songbirds who fly to northern Alaska during their mating season. These birds tend to chirp more frequently as soon as they reach the breeding grounds to attract a mate. Spring is short in Alaska and the birds must breed and hatch their clutch before winter.

This July 16, 2016, photo provided by the U.S. Geological Survey shows an Arctic Warbler in Nome, Alaska
This July 16, 2016, photo provided by the U.S. Geological Survey shows an Arctic Warbler in Nome, Alaska, VOA

The team of researchers recorded the springtime soundscape of northern Alaska for five sequential years. They placed microphones at four sites in the foothills of the Brooks Range, which recorded 1,200 audio hours.

However, Oliver admitted the recordings weren’t always perfect. “There’s a lot of other noise in these recordings” Oliver said. “Even in May in northern Alaska there’s lots of wind, lots of rain, and all of that is confounding when you’re listening to birds.”

The scientists fed hours of audio into two types of machine learning algorithms — one that used human expertise to help train it and one that relied solely on the collected audio. Both algorithms were based on the same model that’s used by applications like Siri and Alexa.

Oliver told VOA that in creating the human-supervised algorithm, she “wrote a little program to randomly sample about 1 percent of the data set” and then listened to 4-second clips. She scored these clips as either containing or not containing songbird vocalizations and then fed this information into the program.

Both algorithms were fairly accurate at estimating when the avian commuters arrived in the foothills. The models showed the importance of snowmelt for the arrival of the traveling birds. The human-trained model was slightly better at recognizing the relationship between weather conditions and bird calls, although neither model specifically tracked individual species.

This technique has great potential according to Emily Jo Williams, vice president of migratory birds and habitat at the American Bird Conservancy, “This kind of technique that allows you to survey populations in those remote areas is really exciting and could allow us to even discover new places where protection and conservation efforts are needed,” she said.

This study looked at nesting grounds near the Alaskan Arctic Refuge, which is a summer home for birds from nearly every continent. For example, the Northern Wheatear travels approximately 21,000 kilometers (13,000 miles) from Africa to summer in the refuge.

 This July 7, 2016, photo provided by the U.S. Geological Survey shows a Bluethroat in Nome, Alaska
This July 7, 2016, photo provided by the U.S. Geological Survey shows a Bluethroat in Nome, Alaska, VOA

Climate change

Williams told VOA, “We know from some research that some birds’ ranges have actually changed, and they’ve moved in response to what we think is a warming climate.” She went on to explain that “the timing of that migration has evolved over eons, and in large part it’s relative to what food sources are available over a particular time, what weather patterns are or aren’t favorable. So you could end up with bird migration out of sync with insect hatches or the phenology of plants that birds have a relationship to.”

Also read: Study Shows That The First Tree-Dwelling Birds Went Extinct With Dinosaurs

Tools like the algorithm created in this study could be used to track how migratory patterns of many species may shift in response to climate change. Using machine learning is a new way to follow these shifting patterns in birds, insects and other animals. (VOA)

Next Story

Having a Child with Cancer Doesn’t Impact Parents’ Separation: Researchers

Being parents to a cancer patient kid doesn't trigger separation, say researchers

0
cancer seperation
Chldhood cancer may not trigger seperation among parents according to researchers. Pixabay

Contrary to traditional belief, researchers now say that having a child with cancer did not appear to impact parents’ risk of separation or divorce or affect future family planning.

Childhood cancer can cause feelings of fear and uncertainty among parents and burden them with many practical challenges related to caregiving and work-related obligations, according to the study published in the journal Cancer.

For the findings, the research team from the Danish Cancer Society Research Centre examined data from several registries in Denmark, linking information on parents of children diagnosed with cancer in 1982-2014 (7,066 children and 12,418 case parents) with parents of children without cancer (69,993 children and 125,014 comparison parents).

Parents were followed until 10 years after diagnosis, separation or divorce, death, emigration, or the end of 2017, whichever came first.

Overall, parents of children with cancer had a four per cent lower risk of separation and an eight per cent lower risk of divorce compared with parents of children without cancer.

Among parents of children with cancer, those who were younger had less education, and were unemployed had elevated risks for separation and divorce.

The findings showed that risks were also higher among parents of children diagnosed at a younger age.

divorce-separation
Parents of children with cancer had a four per cent lower risk of separation. Pixabay

The investigators also evaluated how the diagnosis of cancer in a child affects parents’ decisions on having another child.

Also Read: Lockdown: Here are 5 Occasions to Celebrate With Luxurious Meals at Home

They expected that parents of a child with cancer would have fewer children than parents of children without cancer and that they would postpone having another child.

This was not the case, however, as the researchers found that the childhood cancer experience did not negatively affect parents’ future family planning in Denmark.

The researchers noted that health care providers should communicate these reassuring and encouraging findings to parents, but that support should be offered if needed to improve family life in the long term. (IANS)

Next Story

A Blend of Spices May Help in Lowering Inflammation in the Body: Researchers

Researchers suggest that adding a blend of spices to your meal may help in reducing inflammation

0
food-spices
Adding spices to your meal may increase its health benefits. Pixabay

Adding an array of spices to your meal is a surefire way to make it tastier and a part of Healthy Recipes, but it may increase its health benefits as well, say researchers, suggesting that a blend of spices may help in lowering inflammation in the body.

For the findings, published in the Journal of Nutrition, the research team used a blend of basil, bay leaf, black pepper, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, ginger, oregano, parsley, red pepper, rosemary, thyme and turmeric.

In a randomised, controlled feeding study, the researchers found that when participants ate a meal high in fat and carbohydrates with six grams of a spice blend added, the participants had lower inflammation markers compared to when they ate a meal with less or no spices. “If spices are palatable to you, they might be a way to make a high-fat or high-carb meal more healthful,” said study researcher Connie Rogers, Associate Professor at Penn State University in the US.

According to the researchers, previous research has linked a variety of different spices, like ginger and turmeric, with anti-inflammatory properties. For the current study, the researchers recruited 12 men between the ages of 40 and 65, with overweight or obesity, and at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease. In random order, each participant ate three versions of a meal high in saturated fat and carbohydrates on three separate days: one with no spices, one with two grams of the spice blend, and one with six grams of the spice blend. The researchers drew blood samples before and then after each meal hourly for four hours to measure inflammatory markers.

oregano spices
the research team used a blend of many spices including oregano. Pixabay

“Additionally, we cultured the white blood cells and stimulated them to get the cells to respond to an inflammatory stimulus, similar to what would happen while your body is fighting an infection,” Rogers said. “We think that’s important because it’s representative of what would happen in the body. Cells would encounter a pathogen and produce inflammatory cytokines,” Rogers added.

Also Read: Get Your Sunshine Vitamin With These Dietary Sources

After analysing the data, the findings showed that inflammatory cytokines were reduced following the meal containing six grams of spices compared to the meal containing two grams of spices or no spices.

While the researchers can’t be sure which spice or spices are contributing to the effect, or the precise mechanism in which the effect is created, the results suggest that the spices have anti-inflammatory properties that help offset inflammation caused by the high-carb and high-fat meal. (IANS)

Next Story

Coronavirus Pandemic: A Punishment for Humans?

Humans have caused irreparable damage to earth over the span of millions of year

0
mask Coronavirus
The world has seen many pandemics in the past before Coronavirus pandemic. Pixabay

By Muskan Bhatnagar

It’s been over 6 months since the Coronavirus outbreak and the world is still fighting against it. Coronavirus Worldometer suggests a total of 4,907,135 cases so far, including cases that resulted in deaths and the ones recovered. This is not the first time that the world is going through a pandemic and crisis. Humans saw the Spanish Flu back in 1918, the spread of HIV in 1981, and the most recent one in 2009, H1N1 Swine flu. These pandemics killed millions of people across the globe, just like COVID-19

Since the onset of the year 2020, the world has faced terrible situations. The year began with Australia still on wildfires, a US drone strike on Iran which could’ve escalated to another World War in January, February saw a global stock market crash, in March COVID-19 had spread globally forcing nations to shut down, the global death toll from COVID-19 exceeds 200,000 in April and the world economy is expected to shrink  3%, which is the worst contraction since the 1930s Great Depression. With the onset of May, the global death toll exceeds 300,000 and the world faces a global mental health crisis because of isolation, fear, and economic crisis.

It’s not even been 6 months into this year and the world has already the worst of times. But the question is- who is responsible for all this? The answer is crystal clear. It is us, the human race.

The modern form of humans has existed on earth from 200,000 years. With time, humans have conquered the planet, excelled in the fields of science and technology, made impossible things possible, and developed a world with possibly the most luxurious facilities.

nature
Humans have caused a lot of damage to the planet with activities like deforestation. Pixabay

In the process of development, humans have caused irreparable damage to Earth and the environment which includes ecosystems, biodiversity, natural resources, etc.

Overconsumption and over-exploitation of resources, overpopulation of humans, global warming, pollution, deforestation, etc have caused damages that are irreversible now. We have exploited the planet to an extent where it’s impossible to rectify the damage we have caused.

Speaking about my personal opinion, this year seems to be a punishment to the human species for all the harm we have caused to nature and the environment since the day of our existence. We have hurt the nature, animals, birds, plants, and even our fellow human beings, and this devastating situation right now, feels like we’re repaying for it.

wildlife
People have been hunting animals and destroying ecosystems since a long time. Pixabay

We have killed a countless number of animals and birds just to satisfy our hunger even when we can live without eating them, we have killed animals for the sake of wearing good clothes, we have killed animals just to pursue our hobby of hunting, we have cut down trees so that we can make paper and write ‘save trees’ on them, we have caused air pollution so that we don’t sweat, we have exploited natural resources like petroleum just for the sake of our laziness, we have destroyed forests for the purpose of making luxurious cities, we have damaged the water bodies because we can’t even throw garbage in a bin.

And we happen to be the ‘best creation of God’ and also the smartest species to ever exist on this planet.

international-space-station-1176518_19201
The earth seems to be healing itself while we are confined to our homes. Pixabay

Read More: How Resolution 20-172 by St. Paul City Council Incites Hindu Phobia

Is the development and smartness of any use if the planet is no more able to sustain us? It feels like nature took everything in its hands and decided to punish us from all possible aspects and started to heal itself by confining us to our houses.

Nature has bounced back as we are locked inside our homes. The world has seen a significant positive change in the environment with many countries experiencing a fall in carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxide of as much as 40%. With the minimum use of cars on the road, it seems to be a piece of potential good news for the climate as oil happens to be the biggest source of carbon emissions. Not just this, but the flora and fauna have also received a big positive change.

The World and its people are suffering and facing the worst of times, but the planet earth seems to be relieved.