Male koala calls monitored with 3G technology
Around spring each year the forests of eastern Australia come to life with the eerie sound of male koalas producing their deep grunting "bellows". But why exactly Koalas bellow remains a mystery.
That's all about to change for the Koalas on St Bees Island off the coast of Mackay, where high-tech monitoring through Microsoft Smartphones is helping scientists discover the secrets of the deep Koala calls.
Queensland University of Technology IT researchers Professor Paul Roe and Richard Mason from the Microsoft QUT eResearch Centre (www.mquter.qut.edu.au) are collaborating with Dr Bill Ellis, a Koala researcher from University of Queensland, to provide the remote-controlled, solar powered sensors which transport the bellows from the remote island, across the Telstra NextG network, and into Dr Ellis' laboratory.
Mr Mason said that microphones connected to the smart phones monitor the Island's acoustic environment for two minutes every half hour.
Information gathered through the smart phones is fed to an acoustic database where the QUT researchers are developing software which will automatically recognise the Koalas' calls.
"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," Mr Mason said.
Professor Roe said the sensor system had been developed to record the environmental heart beat and could be adapted to different ecosystems.
He said the QUT-developed technology gave scientists "more eyes and ears" and the University of Queensland researchers had sought their help after hearing about the use of the smart phones at Brisbane Airport to pick up bird calls.
"The fact that they can gather crucial data without disturbing the Koalas is a real plus for research and cuts down on time-consuming tasks for the researchers," Professor Roe said.
"The collaboration has opened up this area of research and we are extremely excited about the data we have been collecting," said Dr Ellis, lead researcher on the St Bees Island Koala Study funded by San Diego Zoo and The Earthwatch Institute.
"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.
Media contact: Rachael Wilson, QUT media officer, 07 3138 1150 or email@example.com.
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