Learning Opportunity: Field Recording and Analysis of Biological Sounds for Research and Conservation

Interested in Acoustic Monitoring? The Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute is hosting a course entitled "Field Recording and Analysis of Biological Sounds for Research and Conservation". This course will teach its participants about proper use of equipment and data analysis for acoustic monitoring. The deadline to apply is February 29th, 2017. 

Date published: 2016/12/27

Course Overview:

Acoustic recording and monitoring have become mainstream tools for biological research and conservation. Increasingly, acoustic recordings are used to address a variety of basic and applied questions about the biology of acoustically active animal taxa in terrestrial and aquatic environments. Although equipment for recording and software for analyzing animal sounds are more readily available than ever before, few opportunities exist for biologists to learn how to use the equipment and software appropriately.  The course is intended for scientists at any career stage, including students, interested in applying bioacoustic methods to basic and applied research in fields such as behavioral ecology, taxonomy, distribution, and conservation biology of birds, anurans, bats, insects, marine mammals, fish, and other acoustically active taxa.

This two-week field-based course focuses on practical techniques for acquiring and analyzing animal sound recordings under real-world field conditions. Background theory is covered as needed to enable participants to make and document high-quality recordings under varying conditions and then use acoustic analysis software to visualize and extract information from those recordings relevant to specific research or conservation questions. Field recording topics include selection and application of audio recorders and microphones, digital recording theory, metering, field recording techniques, autonomous recorders, and documentation for and archiving of sound recordings. The acoustic analysis portion of the course includes the conceptual foundations of spectrogram analysis, optimizing spectrogram parameters, robust measurements, automated signal detection, quantitative comparison of spectrograms, and efficient use of software for review of soundscape recordings. Throughout the course, we emphasize how to avoid common pitfalls and errors both in recording and analysis.

This course aims to provide participants with practical skills in digital audio recording in the field, and in appropriate analysis techniques for addressing a variety of research questions. The course provides all of the conceptual background needed to support these skills, and to help practitioners avoid common pitfalls in recording and analysis of animal sounds. In addition to covering best practices for recording and analysis of animal sounds, we also discuss the limitations of acoustic methods and realistic expectations for these techniques.

Each day is comprised of several hours of early-morning field recording followed by lectures/discussions and hands-on exercises in the afternoon. After learning basic field recording and analysis skills, course participants will plan and execute a short research project, either in small groups or individually, that involves making recordings in the field, then analyzing those recordings to answer a specific research question.


Prospective participants must complete and submit the pre-course survey in the application page.


May 1-12, 2017


Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Virginia, USA

Application Procedure:

Field Recording and Analysis of Biological Sounds for Research and Conservation is offered through the Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation as a professional training course for 6 Continuing Education Units (CEUs). Applications should be submitted using the Online Application Page. Before beginning our online application, please have .pdf or .doc versions of your updated CV and of your Personal Statement of Interest and Qualifications (maximum 350 words). You’ll be asked to attach these with your application.

For first consideration, apply before February 20, 2017.

Course Costs:

March 6, 2017.  Note that your acceptance to the course does not guarantee you a seat in the course. Seats are allocated as Registration payments are received, and pre-deadline registration is strongly encouraged to ensure your space in the course.)

The total cost for this two-week course is $2925.50 (Course fee of $2100 + Housing and Dining Package of $825.50). Those applying as citizens of “less-developed” nations qualify for a reduced course fee of $1200, making the total cost including housing (shared double room) and dining package $2025.50. Click HERE to check if your country of citizenship qualifies you for the reduced course fee.

The course fee includes registration fees, instruction, course manual, and other course materials and shuttle transportation.

Airport pick-up and drop-off shuttle service at Dulles International Airport (IAD), the only Washington, DC-region airport for which SMSC provides ground transportation shuttle service. Shuttle pick-up date at Dulles (IAD) will be Sunday, April 30 in the afternoon. Individuals whose flight options are limited should plan to arrive the night before (April 29) and book into overnight accommodation in the Dulles-Washington, DC vicinity, so they can meet this Sunday afternoon shuttle. Shuttle drop-off date at Dulles (IAD) will be Saturday, May 13 in the morning.

Dining and Accomodation:

Daily full-service buffet-style dining at the SMSC Dining Commons – Dining begins with dinner on Sunday, April 30, and ends with breakfast on Saturday, May 13.

Housing at the SMSC Residential Facility, including a shared room with bathroom (single rooms available at extra cost) – Lodging begins Sunday night, April 30 and check out is Saturday, May 13.


With course coordinator’s written approval in advance of registration/payment, local participants may elect to stay off campus, waive the housing and dining package, and commute to this course. Meals in the Dining Commons can then be purchased individually as needed.

For more information, e-mail: [email protected].