Mapping a Bornean Soundscape
Mapping a Bornean Soundscape
We will explore, record, and map the sounds of one of the world’s most species-rich and rapidly vanishing forests.
We will explore, record, and map the sounds of one of the world’s most species-rich and rapidly vanishing forests. Read more
About this project
Bornean rainforests: an incredibly diverse and poorly understood treasure. The rainforests of Borneo are among the most species-rich habitats in the world. Listening to the sounds of these forests is an incredible and overwhelming experience as gibbons, hornbills, tree frogs, cicadas, and hundreds of other species advertise their presence. Our mission is to record and map these sounds while we still can.
The forests of Borneo are under incredible human pressure. The giant dipterocarp trees that form much of the canopy are extremely valuable timber for furniture and other uses worldwide, and logged-over native forests are increasingly being converted to tree plantation and oil palm as the world demand for pulp wood and palm oil increases.
Mapping and recording sounds of the rainforest. We begin this effort in pristine rainforest, where the ecosystem is still intact. The sounds that we record and map will serve as important reference information for many rarely seen species inhabiting rainforest thickets and canopies. The information we collect will inform us about animals in healthy rainforests, and will serve as an important starting point for understanding the role of animal communication in this ecosystem. Recent research has shown that habitat alteration can dramatically influence an animal’s ability to communicate with others of its kind to find mates, warn others of predators, and maintain contact with young.
The music of the forest. Not only do the sounds of Bornean rainforests inform us about the animals living there, but the sounds are incredibly beautiful, bizarre, and even otherworldly. We believe that the sounds have inherent aesthetic value that can be appreciated by both nature lovers and music lovers alike.
Specifics. Our efforts will begin at Tawau Hills Park in Sabah, East Malaysia (Borneo). Tawau Hills Park is a 30,000 ha reserve of rainforest in southeastern Sabah. It is a rare remnant of old Bornean forest and home to the tallest tropical trees in the world: an ideal site for gathering information on species in a pristine habitat. We have already recorded a series of sounds within the park; from the ground. Our next effort is to sample the canopy. With trees reaching heights of nearly 90 meters (that is nearly 300 feet!), the sounds from the canopy are certainly different from those we hear on the ground. With a team of experienced climbers and recordists, we will ascend to the canopy at sites throughout the park to record. Each canopy recording will be paired with a recording from the ground for comparison and mapped using a GPS unit and GIS. Ultimately, we aim to produce a map of rainforest sounds that would be widely available in programs such as Google Earth and OpenLayers. All of our work is conducted in collaboration with local scientists and conservationists in Borneo and our team will include people from the US and Malaysia.
Tangibles. The sounds we record will be identified to the lowest taxonomic level possible and uploaded to borneanbirdconservation.org and other sound-sharing sites such as xeno-canto.org. The information we collect will also be published in peer-reviewed scientific journals and presented at professional conferences and to the general public.
Our goal in making the sounds freely available online is to engage others with interests in the animals of the Bornean rainforests as well as the music that they make. Much of the animal life in Borneo is poorly understood. By encouraging information-sharing we hope to gain a better understanding of Bornean rainforest animals and how to conserve them.
Where your money will go. Funds for this project will pay for equipment, travel, and living expenses for a month-long expedition to Tawau Hills Park, Sabah, East Malaysia (Borneo).
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