You can help researchers understand the communication of wolves, dogs, and coyotes.
Click 'How to take part' below for a tutorial guide.
The science behind Howl Coder |
The Canid Howl Project is the work of a large number of scientists, trying to understand the range of different vocal behaviours of canids: primarily wolves, dogs, and coyotes. Despite being closely related, these animals have very different ways of communicating with howls, barks, yips, growls, etc. We hope to understand more about the whole range of canid species and breeds, by studing their vocal behaviour.
Our ears are not evolved to pick up the subtleties of the howls and other sounds of wolves, dogs, and coyotes. So we use a mathematical technique called the Fourier transform to identify the different frequencies (pitches) present at any point in time. Applying a Fourier transform repeatedly produces a spectrogram, which shows time along the horizontal axis, and frequency along the vertical axis. Stronger frequencies are shown as brighter colours. For example, in the spectrogram shown below on the left, there is one strong frequency that remains fairly constant throughout the recording. In contrast, in the howl on the right, the pitch goes up and down.
Humans are especially skilled at finding patterns in pictures. No computer algorithm can match the performance of the human brain at this task. That's why we're turning to you - hundreds or thousands of humans - to do what computers cannot. Track the howls on the spectrogram, and we can convert the lines you draw back into time and frequency, and use this to find out exactly what sounds the animals are making.
But what happens when people make a mistake? Or if they don't agree on the interpretation of the spectrogram? There are statistical techniques that can be used to take this into account; eliminating obviously incorrect scribbles, and taking the majority decision where there is disagreement. So don't worry, just do your best, and the maths will straighten everything out in the end!
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