Bat acoustics research aided by artificial intelligence technology
Scientific research from the Conservation Biology Research Group at the University of Malta reveals new useful knowledge about the species of bats inhabiting the islands of Malta.
In their latest peer-reviewed publication in the journal Bioacoustics, conservation biologists Clare Mifsud and Adriana Vella, describe the presence, distribution and echolocation characteristics of six resident and one migratory bat species found in the Maltese islands.
This being the first in-depth scientific description of the species inhabiting the islands which also incorporates the development of an artificial intelligence tool to detect and identify Maltese bat species, therefore contributing towards accurate monitoring of local bat populations, a crucial step toward their effective conservation management.
Bats use echolocation to navigate and find insect prey during the night. Different bat species also tend to have different echolocation signatures allowing researchers to discriminate between the different species. The researchers from the CBRG-UM conducted detailed bat echolocation characterisation by field-based methods.
This research effort was then augmented by the use of artificial neural networks to allow automatic identification of bat species from their echolocation calls. The use of artificial neural networks allowed species identification to be objective, accurate and efficient. These are highly sought-after qualities for tools used in biological conservation research. The researchers have paved the way for improved future monitoring of Maltese bat species using non-invasive techniques.
The bioacoustic identification tool, developed with artificial neural networks after extensive data analyses, can be used for bat ecological and conservation research. Through the use of field-based methods and subsequent artificial intelligence techniques, the researchers evaluated how different bat species are affected by environmental factors, such as climatic conditions and anthropogenic features, therefore improving monitoring of Maltese bat populations in their anthropogenic and natural landscapes.
Ongoing research by CBRG-UM researchers, assisted by Bicref NGO volunteers, are looking into other important aspects linked to the bat monitoring and foraging behaviour by using various hi-tech methods. Conservation biology may increasingly rely on innovate methods to accurately understand species needs and conditions so as to allow for best management of biodiversity and habitats.
For further information contact Adriana Vella at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Gaisler’s long-eared bat (Plecotus gaisleri) has extraordinary hearing abilities due to its long ears which allow it to locate insect prey by listening to prey-generated sounds; it also relies on ultrasonic signals for navigation and orientation through the landscape. Photo by Claude Busuttil, Bicref NGO