Pepperwood and SSU seek landowners for NASA-funded project

Pepperwood is collaborating with Point Blue Conservation Science, Sonoma State University (SSU), Audubon California, and the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District on a new NASA-funded initiative that enlists citizen scientists to help better understand bird populations in the county, with implications that could extend far beyond.

For this exciting project, volunteers will be trained to capture soundscapes in the field using audio recorders. These soundscapes will then be analyzed using an innovative automated process to produce field data and space-based images to map bird diversity across Sonoma County landscapes. Pepperwood will serve as the pilot site for the initiative before it expands to the rest of the county.

And now we need your help!

See below for how you can volunteer your property for a few days to benefit this project.

Seeking Citizen Scientists and property owners who love birds!
Are you willing to host a bird song recorder for NASA?

March 8, 2017 (Santa Rosa, California) Professor Matt Clark at Sonoma State University is going to the birds—literally!  Dr. Clark’s team was recently awarded a NASA-funded citizen science grant to compare bird songs recorded on cell phones to habitat attributes measured from satellites in space. The results of this project could inform space- and aerial-based data collection worldwide.

Dr. Clark has partnered with Pepperwood to test this methodology at their 3,200-acre nature preserve.  Pepperwood is also the lead on reaching out to the community to find other sites where volunteer bird watchers can deploy cell phone recorders and make direct observations of what birds are where.  Eligible properties include private lots, vineyards, agricultural, or mixed use lands. Interested parties should contact Coby LaFayette at or 707-591-9310 x 201 to learn more about the project. Time is of the essence in order to capture the spring breeding bird season.

“What we are looking for are people who own land and are willing to let bird watchers access it for a few days this spring to make measurements” says Coby LaFayette, a Pepperwood employee who is conducting the landowner outreach on behalf of the team. She is calling and interviewing interested people to see if they want to participate in the project. “The initial response has been terrific! People are excited to join this effort to learn more about our feathered friends. And how many times do you have the opportunity to work with NASA?” adds LaFayette.

The bird watching teams need permission for access from willing landowners in order to deploy the bird song recorders. The cell phones are attached to trees and left for a few days to make recordings. They are then collected by trained citizen scientists, and audio files are downloaded and processed by computers to create an encyclopedia of bird songs for our region.  Dr. Clark’s team will then compare the presence of bird species observed to aerial images that describe their habitats in terms of 3d vertical structure and seasonal variation in canopy chemistry. Image data were acquired by NASA using airplanes, but will be used to simulate data that can be acquired from new NASA satellite missions. This method thus has the potential to improve the scientific understanding, monitoring and management of natural areas worldwide.

Other project partners include Point Blue Conservation Science, which will help process the data, and the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District, which is inviting the team to make measurements on multiple properties located throughout the Mark West watershed environs. Audubon California will provide bird identification experts.

Written agreements that include liability considerations will be developed with individual landowners selected to participate in the project.

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