Manatee Chat Project
Manatee Bioacoustic Research
Manatee acoustic communication has not been studied extensively because it has been believed that manatees have a very limited communication system, which acts mainly as a contact call between a mother and calf. This project will investigate the form and function of manatee vocalizations, and it will allow us to learn more about what signals manatees produce, what potential function they might serve, and what differences individual manatee calls have.The project’s overall goal is to analyze the acoustic (and later video) data sets with the help of citizen scientists. Part of this analysis will be used to train a deep learning system to identify and classify manatee calls. This is phase one of the project in which the citizen scientists are asked to identify and count manatee calls.
Manatees are very vocal and produce at least several different types of calls (Umeed et al., 2017; Mann et al., 2006). Although it has been proposed that the main function of manatee vocalizations is to serve as the contact calls between a mother and calf (O’shea and Poché Jr, 2006), there is at least some anecdotal evidence that unrelated manatees might also use calls for social purposes. At this stage, we simply ask for your help to determine if there is a manatee call in the sound file and also to count how many calls you hear in the audio file and see on the spectrogram. Once you start working on this project, you will be amazed by the diversity of calls produced, and you’ll discover how manatees appear to call back in response to certain calls.
The underwater environment is rarely silent. Since the recordings were made at the Lowry Park Zoo Manatee Hospital and Rehabilitation Center you will hear many other sounds (learn more in the Project Tutorial and the Field Guide ). You will hear the following: mastication (chewing) sounds that could help to identify the feeding events, mechanical sounds from the recording equipment, filter sounds, some other sounds when manatees rub against the underwater hydrophone, and in some cases you will even hear people talking in the manatee exhibit area.
Data Collection Site
The data was collected over a period of several years at the Lowry Park Zoo Manatee Hospital, Tampa, Florida, USA. Over 20 manatees (males and females) were observed and recorded, their ages differed from just few months old to over twenty years old. Our data sets included both video and audio, but phase one of this project will only include audio data.
Manatee acoustic communication has not been studied extensively, and we still do not know the potential function(s) of manatee calls beyond mother and calf contact. Additionally, categorizing calls and later relating them to behavioral states and events could help make a better sense of the data recorded in the future via passive acoustic recorders. Finally, understanding the categories of manatee calls and individual variations could help create a system for tracking manatees via passive acoustic recordings and potentially warn boaters about a manatee presence in the area.