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Using computer algorithm to catch the sound of endangered frogs

  • Red-legged frogs are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
  • Gary Kittleson a biologist is trying determine whether the conservation efforts are helping or not.
  • Many steps have been taken to find  the frogs and conserve them.

In the east of swamp in Santa cruz , Califorina,  Gary Kittleson a biologist and young explorer is trying find the rare red legged frogs. A local trust has hired him, to determine whether their number is growing or decreasing.

The Area called Watsonville Slough is a important habitat for the red legged frogs.

These frogs lost their habitat due to over hunting for frog legs and development, and now it is listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

Kittleson says it is not a job to spot frog in thick brush and pick out their sound and differentiate from other frogs. The people who have untrained ears wouldn’t able to do it. But Gary is an expert and is capable listing to them even while talking.

But this method is an old way of counting animals and it requires lot of time and man power too. With just Kittleson one could get only a small size of data because he can’t be there the whole time.

Hence the local trust of Santa Cruz has also partnered with Conservation Metrics a company which specialises in protecting and conserving biological matters. The company and Kittleson have setup song meters – little green boxes with microphones that record all night and capture everything.

Data recorded in the song meter is then uploaded in computer and the company employees little green boxes with microphones that record all night and capture everything.  What would normally take a whole team of field biologists can now be done by one person and a computer says Matthew Mckown CEO of Conservation Metrics.

“Our whole point is to make conservation better, so we are trying to make it as cheap as possible,” he says.

Conservation Metrics was found three years ago. Mckown believes big data is the hot tool in conservation to study endangered animals and threatened habitats.

“What you’re going to start having is cameras, acoustic sensors, satellites trained on these important parts of the world,” he says.

Kittleson stays in the Watsonville Slough where night has fallen and he finally spots one and says “Beautiful. Adult red-legged frog,”

He is not too optimistic about the future of the red legged frogs. But he says good data is the only way to know if conservation efforts are helping.

by Bhaskar Raghavendran

Bhaskar is a graduate in Journalism and mass communication and a reporter at NewsGram. Twitter handle: bhaskar_ragha

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