The past two weeks I had the great opportunity to travel to Cornell University’s Lab of Ornithology in Ithaca, New York for their Sound Analysis Workshop and Woods Hole, Massachusetts to meet with one of my committee members, Sofie Van Parijs, and her lab group. And boy was I happy about it. Some might say, you live in North Carolina and went up to the chillier Northeast, how could you leave the warm southeast and be so happy about it? Well, hailing from the great state of New Jersey and having gone to the University of Connecticut for my undergraduate degree I have a special place in my heart for this corner of the world. Plus the weather in NC was apparently not so nice and the northeast had beautiful weather!
I started my adventure at Cornell’s Lab of Ornithology in Ithaca, NY. They run a week-long intensive sound analysis workshop and having terabytes of recordings stored up at this point I thought it would be a great opportunity to add some tools to my toolbox and to work with the people at Cornell. My goals for the week were to be a big sponge and to take advantage of the opportunity I had by asking questions and spending time trying to come up with a good plan for my analysis.
One of the major things that I learned during this workshop is that there are many different types of sound analysis software and each does something a little different or entirely unique to that software, so… you need a lot of tools in your toolbox. You can’t just use the hammer to build your dissertation, you need the hammer, the saw, the nails… and each tool has its strengths (and weaknesses). I spent the week mostly learning about Raven a sound analysis software created at Cornell and XBAT, an extensible (meaning you can work on it and add to ti if you’re into programming) tool that runs through Matlab that I’ve been using for the last two years. Both have some new features and each have automated detectors built in that I plan on spending more time testing for my analysis. Many thanks to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology Bioacoustics Research Program for a great week, especially Russ, Tim, Anne and Liz.
After this intense week of presentations and hands-on experience with the software I was happy to continue building my toolbox and working on my dissertation plan in Woods Hole with Sofie Van Parijs and the rest of the Passive Acoustics Group at NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center. At Cornell it was great, there were people who were working on elephants, bats, prairie dogs, birds, mice and fish. I was the only marine mammal person there so it was really nice to head to Woods Hole to be with fellow marine mammal acousticians to learn about their projects and tools too! I had great meetings with so many people! Thanks to Gen, Dani, Sofie, Trudi, Peter, Denise and Samara for making my stay so worthwhile and for meeting with my to talk about my project. And as a special treat I also got to go out on the boat with Lisa (I call her Grace) Conger and saw my first right whales! I leaned over on the way out and said, “Grace, I’ve never seen a right whale before.” And from just the look on her face I knew I was in for quite the day. A group of 10-15 high skimming right whales, AMAZING! Check out my sweet outfit on the left. That mustang suit might not be the most fashionable but it kept me warm! A big thanks to Grace for taking me out!
So after 6 planes, 4 buses, 2 taxis and 6 hours of driving I had given two talks, met with so many different people to learn about the projects they’re working on and the tools they use, built up my sound analysis toolbox and came up with a more detailed plan for my chapters of my dissertation! I’d say it was a successful two weeks! Plus I got clam chowder on Martha’s Vineyard and a new green black dog hat so life is good!