Townsville children using the latest technology to help scientists monitor birds
Issued: 4 Jan 2018

James Cook University computer scientist, Dr Mangalam Sankupellay gives us the low down on her project to connect school students to the environment.

Dr Mangalam Sankupellay

Dr Mangalam Sankupellay

James Cook University computer scientist, Dr Mangalam Sankupellay gives us the low down on her project to connect school students to the environment.

What is your research project?

The research involves the latest technology to identify the numbers and types of birds from a recording.

It uses a special device for citizen science projects — projects that will not only help in ecological-monitoring, but also to connect citizens with their local environment. This particular device — the Bird Box Recorder — is used to collect and identify bird calls, and the research will help to make enhancements to the device as well as monitor bird diversity.

How are students involved in collecting data?

Thanks to the Advance Queensland Engaging Science Grant the project was introduced into Townsville schools.

A total of 101 students from 3 schools, St Joseph’s Catholic School, Mundingburra, Bluewater State School and Currajong State School were involved in the project.

The projected aligned with curriculum requirements of each of the schools to encourage students to participate in science, technology, engineering and maths activities outdoors.

In particular, it was great fun for the children to tap into their love of technology to encourage their interest in biology and ecology.

We provided games to encourage students to learn local bird calls as well as record bird calls within the school.

The students play a key role in the research by identifying the recorded calls and sending the identified calls over the internet to help to develop the recorder and the process. As part of the project, the students were also involved in the national citizen science event, Aussie Backyard Bird Count, which took place during October 2017.

How did participating researchers and students benefit from this project?

Students participating in the project developed a greater appreciation of their natural environment within their homes and schools.

Students were more aware of the birds within their school and homes and were keen to learn more about how to help wildlife around them. In addition, students also learned how scientists process audio data. Students were keen to be part of the project and helped identify 30 of the common birds in Townsville.

In this project, our researchers learned new ways to use technology to encourage students to learn about birds and their natural environment. We were also able to study the birds and bird calls in the school environment.

What’s your next step for the research?

We are keen to expand the project to more schools in Townsville.

To find out more about the ground-breaking work of scientists in Queensland, follow Queensland Science on Facebook.