Comparative Bioacoustics: An Overview

Comparative bioacoustics is extraordinarily broad in scope. It includes the study of sound propagation, dispersion, attenuation, absorption, reverberation, and signal degradation as well as sound ...
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Sound Archives and Media Specimens in the 21st Century

Pp. 462-485 (24)

Michael S. Webster and Gregory F. Budney


Audio recordings of birds and other animals, and also other forms of ‘biodiversity media’ (e.g., video recordings), capture the behavioral phenotype in ways that traditional museum specimens cannot, and natural history audio/media archives hold collections of recordings that span geography, time, and taxonomy. As such, these recordings can be used for a broad range of studies in ecology, evolution, and animal behavior, and newly developed tools for collecting and analyzing these recordings promise to further increase that research potential. Moreover, the digital revolution has made it easier than ever for high quality recordings to be collected and deposited in an archive, opening the door for large-scale citizen science efforts. But this potential also brings new challenges that must be met by the research community with regard to digital standards and accessibility. We recommend that researchers and other recordists deposit their materials in a suitable archive, that sound/media archives build strong partnerships with other types of natural history collections, that these archives also embrace technological advances to make their assets more accessible, and that archives and acoustic researchers harness “the power of the crowd” through crowd-sourcing and similar approaches. In doing so, sound archives and bioacoustic research will play an ever-increasing role in understanding our natural world, including responses of natural systems to human activities, in the 21st century.


Archival standards, Audio specimen, Conservation efforts, Databasing, Environmental recording, Field recording equipment.


Macaulay Library, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, 159 Sapsucker Woods Road, Ithaca, NY 14850, USA.