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J Acoust Soc Am. 2014 Feb;135(2):953-62. doi: 10.1121/1.4861348.

Classification of large acoustic datasets using machine learning and crowdsourcing: application to whale calls.

Author information

Lawrence Technological University, 21000 Ten Mile Road, Southfield, Michigan 48075.
University of Oxford, Denys Wilkinson Building, Keble Road, Oxford, OX1 3RH, United Kingdom.
The Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research, P.O. Box 96864, The Hague, Zuid Holland, 2509 JG, The Netherlands.
University of St. Andrews, St. Andrews, Fife, KY16 9ST, Scotland, United Kingdom.
Middle Tennessee State University, 1301 East Main Street, Murfreesboro, Tennessee 37130.


Vocal communication is a primary communication method of killer and pilot whales, and is used for transmitting a broad range of messages and information for short and long distance. The large variation in call types of these species makes it challenging to categorize them. In this study, sounds recorded by audio sensors carried by ten killer whales and eight pilot whales close to the coasts of Norway, Iceland, and the Bahamas were analyzed using computer methods and citizen scientists as part of the Whale FM project. Results show that the computer analysis automatically separated the killer whales into Icelandic and Norwegian whales, and the pilot whales were separated into Norwegian long-finned and Bahamas short-finned pilot whales, showing that at least some whales from these two locations have different acoustic repertoires that can be sensed by the computer analysis. The citizen science analysis was also able to separate the whales to locations by their sounds, but the separation was somewhat less accurate compared to the computer method.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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