Do you speak whale? No? Well, you might know more of the squeeling low-toned tongue than you think... Scientific American and Zooniverse have partnered up for this one-of-a-kind crowdsourcing project; they are looking for internet volunteers like you to decode new phrases, dialects and meaning of killer & pilot whale songs.
A staggering 15,000 whale songs have been recorded and uploaded onto Whale.fm where citizen scientists are being asked to determine if the data contains new meanings or phrases by comparing sound wave patterns taken from different whale pods around the world.
The first thing we want them to do is compare the images because of what the human brain is very, very good at doing, comparing images, much better than a computer. For someone like me who’s tone deaf, who isn’t very good at telling sounds apart, we’re very, very good at making distinctions between small changes in shapes and objects.
Prof. Ian Boyd, University of St Andrews’ Sea Mammal Research Unit.
Three things to brief you on before you volunteer on this project:
- Despite the fact that both Killer and Pilot whales have very complex repertoires, some sounds are repeated over and over again, indicating they are not produced at random.
- The fact that different pods produce different types of sounds suggest that there may be different whale dialects that are inherited from generation to generation!
- While their meanings are not yet understood, researchers hope to be able to map differing sound-wave samples to see if any further patterns emerge.
That last point is you're cue to visit the site & help out...
Let us know if you do try it out, or just tell us more about what you think about crowdsourcing and whales, a topic that comes up more often than you think.