Awardee: Charlotte Chang, Assistant Professor of Biology and Environmental Analysis
Charlotte Chang is a conservation scientist teaching introductory environmental science and conservation biology at Pomona College. Research in her lab examines how different stakeholders interact with the environment, ranging from digital conservation constituencies in different countries to illicit wildlife hunting to managing agroforests to better support habitat specialist taxa.
Title: Using Passive Acoustic Monitoring to Measure Biodiversity in Environmental Science Classes
Goal: To redesign EA30 and BIOL104 to introduce students to passive acoustic monitors, such as AudioMoth, to record vocalizing biodiversity, specifically birds and insects, and process these data using computer vision models (BirdNET Analyzer) to produce inventories of species at different sites in the vicinity of the Colleges
Acoustic monitoring is an exciting new form of conservation technology that Charlotte Chang has been eager to bring to her EA30 and BIOL104 students. Chang envisions this facilitation occurring through actively comparing and contrasting inventories produced using acoustic monitoring and traditional observational methods.
More directly addressing course structure, the plan is for students to gather into groups to hypothesize about factors impacting the biodiversity of acoustic communities—be that the time of day, or year, isolated habitat features, or human noise. Students will be guided with at least one formative assessment beforehand to ensure they feel comfortable interacting with the data outputted by the acoustic monitors, as well as have the opportunity to collaborate with Chang in developing rubrics for peer reviews of their projects and final assessments. What’s best though is that, once data is collected, the learning will just have begun! Using modern machine learning models, students will process acoustic data to identify vocalizing species.
Much of Chang’s goals have come into fruition—students are exploring bioacoustics as a way to integrate technology in environmental research. Indeed, over 80,000 data points were collected over the course of the 3-week research project Chang has managed to successfully implement into her course curriculum. Since the initiation of the project, protocols have been developed for students using AudioMoth, as well as scripts created to process the large quantities of acoustic data, and a tutorial for students to learn how to interact with processed acoustic data.
This achievement wouldn’t have been possible without the detailed work of Elena Vedevello, this project’s Hahn Teaching with Technology Research Assistant. Working alongside Professor Chang’s EA30 and BIOL104 classes, Elena has designed a survey to assess students’ self-efficacy and knowledge around conservation technologies before and after a dedicated lab project dealing with passive bioacoustic monitors. The survey aims to understand students’ previous knowledge and normative perception on conservation technologies while assessing the impact of the bioacoustics lab on their self-efficacy around conservation technologies.