Bat Detective is an online citizen science project where the public can help to monitor bats across Europe and track changes in the environment by listening to the weirdly wonderful ultrasonic tweets of bats.
Bat Detective project allows visitors to take part in conservation by listening out for bat tweets in recordings collected over 80,000 km of roads across Europe by thousands of volunteers from the iBats program, including bat recordings from the heart of Transylvania.
By sorting the sounds in the recordings into insect and bat calls, bat detectives will help the Bat Detective team learn how to reliably distinguish bat tweets to develop new automatic identification tools.
Bats use lots of different types of sounds, from singing to each other to find a mate, to using the echoes from their tweets to find their way around. Usually bat sounds are inaudible to humans as they are too high for us to hear, but special ‘time expansion’ ultrasonic detectors convert these sounds to a lower frequency, and visitors to Bat Detective can listen to these unique recordings and help the Bat Detective team distinguish different sounds.
One out of every five species of bats is threatened with extinction and better automatic identification tools are desperately needed to quickly process vast amounts of sound data collected by volunteers from bat monitoring programs who survey bat populations each year.
Bats are found all over the world from local parks to pristine rainforests and monitoring their population trends provides an important indicator of healthy ecosystems. Developing new tools that allow the Bat Detective team to interpret population trends from sound will allow bats’ tweets to act as a way to track environmental change.
Bat Detective has been developed by the science team at University College London and Bat Conservation Trust with the development team at Citizen Science Alliance, which runs Zooniverse.org with funding from the Alfred P. Sloan foundation.