Listening to the sounds of nature: switching on OIST’s acoustic monitoring network

February 14th is Valentine’s Day, and for birds living in Okinawa it’s the perfect time to start thinking about building a nest. In warm years like this one, the Tree Sparrow (スズメ) begins its breeding season around this time, followed by the Pacific Swallow (リュウキュウツバメ), the Japanese White-eye (メジロ), and the Japanese Tit (シジュウカラ). If you look closely at the eaves of houses around the island, you may notice the swallows beginning their nesting behavior.

Japanese Tit singing near Takeyanbaru; Photo Credit: Sam Ross

Researchers from arilab are monitoring the onset of the breeding season not only for birds, but also for frogs, crickets, and other organisms that communicate with sound. This is accomplished using a new acoustic monitoring network. While testing of this network has been ongoing for the last year, its installation and activation were completed last week, just in time for Valentine’s Day.

Acoustic Recorder; Photo Credit: Nick Friedman

OIST’s acoustic monitoring network produces more audio than scientists can analyze by ear: assuming you listened to the recordings every minute of every day, you would be twenty four years older by the time you finished a single year’s data. To fix this problem, OIST scientists are training computer models to recognize patterns of activity and to detect individual species of birds, frogs, and insects.

Shinji Iriyama, Ayumi Inoguchi, Sam Ross; Photo Credit: Nick Friedman

Written by Nicholas Friedman

Happy New Year! The First Rooster Call of 2017

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On a small farm near the botanical garden in Okinawa City, a rooster sang its first song of 2017 – the “year of the rooster”. His was the first song of the dawn chorus, a daily event that arouses every type of bird sound on the island of Okinawa – from the sweet melody of the Ryukyu Robin (Akahige) to the harsh screeching of the Brown-eared Bulbul (Hiyodori).


– The first rooster call of 2017 –

This biological symphony has the sun as its conductor, as the conditions just before dawn are especially favorable for singing: the air is cool, the wind is quiet, and the light is low enough to afford a modicum of safety. For male birds, the dawn chorus provides a time for each individual to broadcast “I am still here”, and to assess which of its neighbors can say the same. For female birds, this can be a convenient time to determine which is the superior songster, or to share in the chorus.


– The dawn chorus –

Arilab’s post-doc Nick uses the rooster and its chorus as a way to monitor Okinawa’s ecosystems. The number of different bird species that join the rooster in its song each morning is an indicator of the ecosystem’s health. A varied and noisy morning suggests a healthy environment, whereas a silent morning suggests that some species have gone missing. The rooster’s song was recorded using a network of automated recorders placed in forests and fields across Okinawa.

– Content written by the OIST media section.

OKEON Churamori project’s official website launched!

The Website for the OKEON Churamori project has officially launched!

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The website will allow all the project partners to stay informed and outsiders to learn about the project with frequent updates in the blog section.

The research page describes in detail the various components of the project, including arthropod sampling, acoustic monitoring, ecological genomics, camera trapping, physical parameter monitoring and GIS.

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The map page includes an interactive map displaying the 24 sites / 72 traps established across Okinawa, where user can click on each trap to obtain detailed information about the site. The map also allows the users to select their preferred base map as well as toggle custom features.

The collaborators page includes a comprehensive list of people whose support was vital for the success of the project.

The Wonder of Ants and the OKEON Churamori Project – Open Campus 2016

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On Sunday, November 27th, guests from all parts of Okinawa gathered at OIST to attend the Open Campus Science Festival. This event was OIST’s biggest Open Campus to date, with over 5200 attendees, 250 volunteers, 20 food vendors and 35 booths featuring hands-on science activities.

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The arilab booth attracted many visitors. Per usual, the Wonder of Ants is an essential part of the exhibition: there were ant specimens displayed, microscopes set up that allowed visitors to look at macroscopic ants, 3D-printed ants, 3D ants and ant structure that can be visualized by wearing 3D glasses, and an educational video about ants.

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On top of that, the OKEON project had its own area, with various posters set up about the project, a SLAM trap and a camera trap set up as demonstrations, a video created by Nick that documents various sounds recorded from acoustic traps at OKEON sites, and finally the famous Okinawan ant specialist Takamine san was also present to educate people about ants.

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Let’s head to OIST Science Festa 2016 – Open Campus! OISTサイエンスフェスタ2016 −オープンキャンパス− へ向けて、只今準備中。

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The Economo unit is once again setting up a booth at the OIST Science Festa 2016 as part of the Open Campus event. “The Wonder of Ants”, a section of the booth that has always been popular, is also being exhibited but with more content than before. Moreover, this year the OKEON Churamori project will also set up its own section, with various collaborators gathering at the event, including teachers and students from Hentona and Yomitan high schools; Takamine san, the famous ant scholar who studied Okinawa ants for over 40 years; finally, Tone san, the curator of the Okinawa city museum and a speaker at the joint talk event that was recently held at the same museum.

At the Science Cafe, Yoshimura san and Tone san will be collaborating once again. Let’s talk about what we can do individually to preserve the environment of Okinawa.

After the Science Cafe, the teachers and students from Hentona high school will present their research results on ants collected from their school, which is surrounded by the nature of Yanbaru.

Time : 2016 November 27 (Sunday)
10:00~16:00 (Entry is until 5:30)
Location: OIST campus
https://www.oist.jp/ja/science-festival

The Wonder of Ants & The OKEON Churamori Project
Did you know that there are over 12000 described species of ants? Though ants are ubiquitous, they are infact very interesting creatures and fascinate not only the general public but also researchers. Similar to humans, they create their own society with each individual playing a role to accomplish tasks. Let’s experience together the profound world of ants.
We will display the efforts and the results of our environmental monitoring network, the OKEON Churamori Project.

10:45-12:15 Lab 3
OKEON Churamori Project〜Let’s work together for the future of Okinawa〜
Speaker: Masashi Yoshimura (OIST Biodiversity / Biocomplexity Unit)
Speaker: Tone Koichi (Okinawa municipal museum)

12:15-12:30 Lab 3
The ants of Hentona High School

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エコノモユニットでは、今年もOISTサイエンスフェスタ2016−オープンキャンパス− に、ブースを出すことになりました。いつもの人気コーナー「アリの不思議」もパワーアップの予定。さらに、今年は「OKEON美ら森プロジェクト」のコーナーを拡大します。プロジェクトが始動してからの成果を紹介します。

これまでの観測データの一部を公開するほか、プロジェクトの柱のひとつ、社会ネットワークの大きな成果として、地域との協働体制の中で一緒に活躍する方々による成果発表や、ボランティアとしての参加を予定しています。

島内の高校から辺土名高校の生徒さんたちは、この1年のアリ類研究の成果を発表の予定。読谷高校の生徒さん達は、ブースのお手伝いをしてくれます。沖縄のアリ研究に40年以上取り組んできた、あのアリ名人高嶺さんは、自らのアリ研究普及資料持参で展示に参加。そして、トンボの専門家でもある沖縄市立郷土博物館の学芸員刀禰さん。先日コーディネータの吉村がトークイベントで共演しましたが、今度は、刀禰さんがブースに来て博物館を紹介してくれます。

さらに、サイエンスカフェでは、刀禰さんがゲストスピーカーとして出演することになり、コーディネータ吉村との再共演が実現します。サイエンスカフェに引き続いては、辺土名高校の生徒さんたちによる成果発表の場を設定しています。

OKEON美ら森プロジェクトが目標としている、沖縄社会との協働ネットワークの構築。OISTサイエンスフェスタ2016 −オープンキャンパス− に集ってくださる皆さんは、地域社会とプロジェクトとの良い関係を象徴する大きな成果です。

みなさんお誘い合わせの上ぜひぜひ足をお運びください!!

日時: 2016年11月27日(日)
10:00~16:00 (入場は15:30まで)
会場: OISTキャンパス
https://www.oist.jp/ja/science-festival

アリのふしぎとOKEON美ら森プロジェクト
アリは1万2千種以上の種類が確認されているって、知っていましたか?ありふれた虫に見られがちですが、アリは、一般の人々だけでなく、研究者をも魅了する、実はとても興味深い生き物です。社会を作って生活していることもその一例。まるで私たち人間のように、それぞれが違った役割を果たすことで、全体の大きな仕事を達成します。実はとても奥の深いアリの世界を体験してみましょう。
沖縄の人たちと共に頑張る、環境モニタリングプロジェクト「OKEON美ら森プロジェクト」の取り組みや成果も展示!

10:45-12:15 Lab 3
OKEON美ら森プロジェクト〜沖縄の未来に、いま僕らができること〜
スピーカー:吉村 正志 (OIST生物多様性・複雑性研究ユニット・スタッフサイエンティスト)
スピーカー:刀禰 浩一 (沖縄市立郷土博物館 学芸員)
OISTが牽引する「OKEON美ら森プロジェクト」。沖縄の環境を調べて未来へ活かすことを目指して、環境調査とそれに関わる人たちのネットワークは沖縄本島全域に広がる。一方で、地元で地に足をつけて腰を据えた活動を展開し、地元の自然と人をつなぐ博物館。そして、自然環境を未来の世代へと受け継ぎたいと考える沖縄のみなさん。3者が沖縄の未来のためにできること、一緒に考えてみませんか?

12:15-12:30 Lab 3
辺土名高校内のアリ相
沖縄県には、約150種のアリが生息する。大自然やんばるに位置する辺土名高校内ではどれくらいの種類が生息し、どのような特徴がみられるかを校内の3地点で採集し、比較した。

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