A couple weeks ago I volunteered to be Danielle’s field assistant for the evening. All of the acoustics fieldwork I have helped with in the past has been on a boat, so I was happy to put aside my dead-week studying to learn a little bit about acoustics research on land. It also didn’t hurt that Danielle is well versed in field assistant bribery (Burgerville! Cookies!)

We headed out of town just after five pm, driving north past Albany to the Ankeny Wildlife Refuge. Danielle has a number of pond sites she visits on a rotating basis, Ankeny contains one.


We arrived at the pond in daylight and got right to work counting egg masses in the first study area. Since the egg masses are tricky to spot, it’s easier to work during the day. Together we walked in straight lines across the (shallow) pond for half an hour counting all of the egg masses we could see. Since the egg masses are so tiny, Danielle and I both had to hunch over to see into the pond, sometimes using our hands to confirm a sighting.

I hope someone buys Danielle a massage after her field season is over.
I hope someone buys Danielle a massage after her field season is over.

After we finished our survey effort, we shared some snacks and hung out until nighttime when the frogs started chorusing. When it was fully dark, we put on our waders and headed to a second pond to try and catch some adult frogs. I wasn’t very good at it (the frogs are so tiny and speedy) but Danelle caught a bunch and I helped her weigh and measure them. Finally it was time to record the chorusing!


Earlier in the day I asked Danielle if recording the frogs was a peaceful experience, similar to how I feel when I hear a whale on my hydrophone recordings. She hesitantly told me that sometimes it is…but often the frogs are are too loud for any sort of relaxation. It’s hard to believe that such a loud noise can come out of an animal that is hardly bigger than a quarter, but she was not kidding…


Next time in sharing our research…Danielle goes to sea!

Soundbites is a weekly (less often when Danielle is doing fieldwork) feature of the coolest, newest bioacoustics, soundscape, and acoustic research, in bite-size form. Plus other cool stuff having to do with sound. 

Primate vocal divergence and speciation: a cool study on tamarins in South America documenting how vocal divergence might lead to reproductive isolation in two subspecies, meaning that they might actually end up being different species altogether.

Atlantic spotted dolphins can change the depth of field of their echolocation: these researchers found dynamic changes in the way this species focuses its echolocation, especially as prey gets closer. Neat example of convergent evolution with bats!

Hong Kong’s pink dolphin population shifting to avoid vessel traffic: an already threatened population is getting even more stressed by vessel traffic, and is moving to be less disturbed.

Fun link of the weekthis has basically nothing to do with acoustics, except it’s a song on an acoustic guitar. But yesterday was St. Patrick’s Day, so I thought I’d give you a biologist’s take on the holiday.

First, let me apologize for being a little late with this post. I generally post the second Friday of every month; It’s Tuesday. One of the reasons I’m late is because I flew back to my hometown in Birmingham, Alabama as an invited teacher at the N.E. Miles Jewish Day School. I had the privilege of running three lessons on whale communication for students ranging from kindergarten to eighth grade. Admittedly they kept me on my toes! Spending time with children is exciting and inspiring.

We did a number of activities to demonstrate how marine mammals use sound to communicate. Students were given a small shaker containing one of four materials (hazelnuts, tacks, aduki beans, or rice) and they had to use their ears alone to find their “pods”. We had fin whales, humpback whales, killer whales, and beluga whales. Each pod was then given a ribbon the length of their whale to stretch out across the activity room. Even I was impressed with how big a fin whale really is.

For the older groups we talked about the relationship between size and pitch (frequency), learned how to read spectrograms, and I introduced the concept of masking and noise pollution by playing a series of whale calls and adding vessel noise. For the kindergartners and first graders, however, it seemed more appropriate to introduce the concept of sound in the ocean with a story. I re-purposed a true story about a killer whale from Puget Sound named Springer who was separated from, and later reunited with her pod. In real life recordings were made of Springer’s vocalizations to help identify which pod she belonged to. In the story below, Springer uses her family whistle to try and re-connect, and she meets a number of other whales along the way. On each page I was able to play recordings of the animals in the pictures, so my young students could hear the actual voices of the animals. Enjoy!



This blog post has NOTHING to do with bioacoustics. Or noise. Or marine mammals. Or even terrestrial mammals (ok, well technically humans). This blog post is about the awesome-ness that is my stand up desk. A lot of folks have been asking me about it lately so I figured, why not share the joy?

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Crushing work.


I’ve had my stand up desk for about a year now, made from this IKEA hack for about 22 bucks. I am proud to say no less than 5 of my closest friends and colleagues have since also made themselves some version of this (I’m so hipster, its the Oregon way). Many grad students in life science, ecology, marine science, wildlife-y fields pursed such a career path because they love being active, being outside, etc. Look at any of the bio’s of ORCAA students, for example.  But what do we actually do most of the time? Sit at our computer.

I have far too much energy to just sit at a computer all day!

So now I’ve got this sweet set up. Not only do I stand at my desk, but I just added a balance pad for EXTRA muscle engagement. I can’t take credit for this, fellow grad student Thaddaeus Buser passed on his balance pad obsession/wisdom to me. And now I pass it to you.


Questions I gotten asked include:

Don’t you get tired all day?

Yes…at first it was really hard! But it gets easier. 

What if you want to sit?

Well I don’t have one of those fancy up and down desks or a nice tall chair (that is what dreams are made of), so I take my laptop or some reading material to the library, or a coffee shop, or wherever. It gives me a change of scenery (which I like) plus a little rest. 

Is it distracting?

Nope. I actually find it much easier to focus because all my pent up physical energy an outlet now. 

I will admit certain work activities are easier sitting (writing) vs standing (Matlabbing), but again, that’s what all the little work spaces around campus are for!

Soundbites is a weekly (less often when Danielle is doing fieldwork) feature of the coolest, newest bioacoustics, soundscape, and acoustic research, in bite-size form. Plus other cool stuff having to do with sound. Yes, I know it’s been awhile. I’ll try to make this one extra awesome to make up for it.

Dolphins have social food calls: it turns out that humans aren’t the only ones to gossip about our food (see anyone’s Instagram feed ever). These researchers found that wild bottlenose dolphins had particular social calls that were highly correlated with food calls, and didn’t occur otherwise. Dolphins might therefore be sharing information about the food patch itself.

Invasive cane toad calls change the calling patterns of native Australian frogs: as I’m deep in frog fieldwork, you just knew I’d have some frog news for you. Invasive species are bad as it is (and cane toads are particularly bad), but they might also be changing the way native species communicate. Here, one native species decreased their call rate with playback of cane toad calls. I hope these authors extend this work with observational studies, there’s a lot of potential here.

Birds shift the frequency of non-breeding calls above noise: we’ve heard about birds shifting their frequency before, but only with breeding calls. Here, black-capped chickadees (a local species) and American goldfinches both shifted their non-breeding calls (described as “chickadeedeedee” and “po-tay-to-chip”, which I love) above the frequency of urban noise.

Fun link of the week: apropos of absolutely nothing at all, did you guys know that sand dunes sing!??!?! Not only do they sing, they sound creepy! Someone needs to work on some weird ambient music with the stuff, stat!