Bat acous­tics re­search aided by ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence tech­nol­ogy

The Malta Business Weekly - - NEWS -

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 adri­ana.vella@um.edu.mt

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

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