Ecologists preserve earth’s biodiversity with sound studies using edge computing and data analytics solutions

APRIL 22, 2020 • BLOG POST • JANICE ZDANKUS, VP OF INNOVATION FOR SOCIAL IMPACT AT HEWLETT PACKARD LABS, HPE

IN THIS ARTICLE

  • HPE collaborates with a team of scientists to process a multitude of audio data for insights using HPE Edgeline Converged Edge Systems, HPE ProLiant Servers and HPE Apollo Systems
  • The team collected audio data from 80% of the earth’s major ecosystems using sensors and battery-powered acoustic recorders to capture sound in remote areas

Researchers at the Center for Global Soundscapes at Purdue University record audio across the globe and accelerate ecological insights through edge computing and data analytics capabilities from HPE

The Earth has several types of ecosystems, from tropical forests and grasslands, to deserts and tundras, and each produces unique organisms that make our planet diverse and beautiful. But, as human habitation and activity continues to expand, ecosystems will change over time and impact natural processes from thriving.

That is why a team of ecologists, led by Dr. Bryan Pijanowksi at Purdue University, is using sound data from earth to study indicators of global change that will lead to solutions for preserving the planet’s biodiversity for future generations.

This approach just comes with one teeny, tiny task: listening to the entire planet and making sense of it.

Going wild: collecting sound data at the edge from paleotropical rainforests to arid deserts

Dr. Pijanowski and the team at the Center for Global Soundscapes at Purdue University, also referred to as “Soundscape,” ventured into the wild to collect samples of earth sounds that would eventually deliver valuable insights through a collaboration with HPE. Sound samples linked to global change can be heard in birds that sing at a higher pitch in more urbanized environments and in more frequent occurrences of thunder in Fairbanks, Alaska that are caused by changes in climate patterns.

The Soundscape team started their worldwide listening tour in a rainforest of Borneo, one of the largest islands in Asia, where they placed sensors and battery-powered acoustic recorders to capture sound. The process continued in a number of remote areas, and amounted to a significant collection of audio data from 80% of the earth’s major ecosystems. That’s a ton of different sounds from all kinds of activity like animals, weather, and running water.

Each recorder collected up to 48,000 samples of audio per second, and as the data pipeline grew in size and complexity, so did the team’s time-to-discovery. That is when the Soundscape team and HPE collaborated to tackle this data challenge.

Visualizing earth’s sounds using edge and analytics solutions

The Soundscape team required a combination of powerful computing, deep learning, and big data mining and analytics solutions to ingest data and process it for insights. The team was able to extract vast amounts of complex data from remote sensors and recorders that were strategically scattered in the wild, by using high-performing edge computing solutions from HPE Edgeline Converged Edge Systems and HPE ProLiant Servers. Once fragmented data was consolidated, it was processed and analyzed for data visualization using HPE Apollo Systems, which are ideally suited to support deep learning and analytics capabilities.

Hearing the truth about earth’s ecosystems

We are honored to share that after arming Dr. Pijanowski and his team with computational power to extract multitudes of data points from a growing sound library, they are now able to unlock meaningful insights about ecosystems. One example is from a study in Arizona for the National Park Service. Park operators wanted to understand how a recent wildfire had impacted an affected area and how the ecosystem is recovering from it.

After collecting sound throughout the day and night from 50 sensors placed in the area, the data revealed that the nocturnal wildlife community had recovered almost immediately, while the diurnal population – animals that are active during the day – was still struggling due to environmental factors such as varying temperature from daytime to nighttime.

Dr. Pijanowski shared how catching this timely pattern through use of technology helps us make faster decisions to preserving our ecosystems, explaining:

“If we didn’t have sound recorders out there, we would have missed this – we would have missed the potential pathway to a solution. Technology is helping us accelerate our research in new ways. It allows us to get good quality data in the field, and it allows us to analyze the data and create these visualizations in a way that can benefit society.”

Pictured in Tanzania: Dr. Bryan Pijanowski, Director, Discovery Park Center for Global Soundscapes, Purdue University

HPE and Purdue University’s collaborative journey to sustainability

I am proud of the work that the team at HPE is doing with Dr. Pijanowski to enable faster and more reliable research that helps us understand the planet’s patterns of change and how as humans, we can make a difference in preserving its unique habitats within it. Additional details on our work with Dr. Pijanowski and the Soundscape project can be found in the following case study, Sound with a vision: What our planet is telling us and in this HPE .NXT article: Soundbytes: Using sound technologies to improve the world.

Our longtime collaboration with Purdue University spans across other areas of sustainability, including Tech Impact 2030, a joint initiative between HPE and the World Economic Forum to bring together leaders across organizations to solve a series of societal challenges in key industries. One of these joint missions with Purdue University includes solving food challenges for today’s and tomorrow’s generations by using a blend of research, innovations and disruptive technologies to produce food, fuel and fiber more effectively than ever before.

HPE is a force for good and is committed to advancing the way we live in work. We look for to continuing our collaborations with partners such as Purdue University to create innovative initiatives to solve the world’s toughest challenges.

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