I love it when people use new technology to accomplish classic research:
Researchers at MIT are using mobile phones to help count owls in forests. Professor Eben Goodale and his colleagues placed tricked-out cell phones in various parts of a forest. When Goodale dials the owls' numbers, the mobile phones play owl calls from their speakers and record the responses. From The Telegraph:One use has been to track great horned owls in Louisiana and their effects on local swallow tailed kite populations. In the new study, they show that Barred Owls and the Eastern screech owl are also happy to take a call on the mobile.
Traditionally, bird surveys rely on people standing in the woods, playing a CD of bird calls, and taking note of the birds they hear responding. It can be labour intensive and inexact.
The researchers now plan to compare a survey conducted with 65 phones with one that relies on CD recordings used by 250 volunteers from the Audubon Society in Maine to see if the mobiles do as well. The advantage is that the new method allows ornithologists to dial up birds anywhere on the planet, and to cover a large area at the same time.