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Research Custer: SoundEvolution

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Sound of the Anthropocene

In the Anthropocene - an era in which humans in particular are influencing biological, geological and atmospheric processes on Earth - ecosystems worldwide are changing at great speed. Habitat loss, climate change, invasive species, and spreading diseases are serious problems for many organisms that require rapid adaptations and behavioral changes. Careful documentation of adaptive changes that have already occurred can model how resilient species will be to future anthropogenic impacts. These assessments are essential for the conservation of biodiversity on our planet. This requires ethological datasets that not only document the behavior of individual species over long periods of time, but also map intraspecific variability across large geographic ranges. To acquire the necessary data, it is advantageous to focus on bioacoustic and bioelectric signals because they occur reliably in specific behavioral contexts, can be recorded in a standardized manner, and can be stored digitally. Thus, bioacoustic and bioelectric monitoring is a very well-suited tool to efficiently record and characterize rapid behavioral changes.

SoundEvolution aims to fully exploit the existing bioacoustic collection of the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin through the use of acoustic pattern recognition algorithms and to strategically expand it through the acquisition of new datasets. The goal is to establish an AI-powered bioacoustic research collection that can document adaptive behavioral changes in animals and generate data for modeling future resilience. Birds, bats, amphibians, and grasshoppers are focus taxa due to their current endangerment and the existing research strength at the Museum für Naturkunde. This is also true for the fish fauna of South American river systems. Electric eels will thus be examined as prominent representatives of the species-rich but cryptic knifefish, which do not communicate acoustically but with the help of pulsed electrical discharges. In the long term, SoundEvolution aims to continuously integrate not only the communication signals of animals but also the soundscapes of their habitats into the collection of the Museum für Naturkunde for current research purposes and to preserve them for future generations.