Amphibian acoustics in Madagascar

So, some people have asked me what I am planning to do for my dissertation, and probably the majority started to wonder about it after seeing that *extremely* cheesy video put together for the Nestpick scholarship – which I was lucky enough to win thanks to all the amazing support I received. Therefore, I decided to write a few lines to introduce here my research topic, to which a whole section of my website (under “blog and travel diary”) will be dedicated to, soon. I plan to write as  a many posts as possible, to update everyone all throughout my project, before-while-and after I come back from Madagascar… so stay tuned!

As you might know, about one-third of all amphibian species are globally threatened with extinction. Madagascar is a country with the 12th highest amphibian species richness worldwide, featuring an extremely high number of frogs found nowhere else but there. However, Madagascar has been experiencing very high rates of deforestation and habitat degradation, which are between the greatest causes of amphibian declines worldwide. Because of this, it is extremely important to increase our knowledge of local amphibian biodiversity, and to improve our monitoring techniques for detecting extinction probability.

Mantella_milotympanum black eared mantella

Black-eared mantella (Mantella milotympanum). Critically Endangered.                        Photo by: Franco Andreone

However, to date the monitoring of frog diversity and community health relies on traditional field techniques such as visual encounter and transect auditory surveys, which are very time-consuming and have several strong limitations, including the heavy reliance on human ability to identify species.

Therefore, very briefly, what I aim to do is to compare the performance of traditional field-work techniques with automated acoustic monitoring coupled with sound-recognition software in measuring anuran biodiversity. This new technology allows for automatic identification of species, after the software has been trained to recognise calls from known species of frogs.

If this cutting-edge technology reveals successful in the field, the future might feature country-wide automated anuran monitoring, providing real-time information ensuring effective amphibian conservation.


Blue-legged mantella (Mantella expectata). Endangered. Photo by: Franco Andreone

I will visit various sites in the Mahamavo forest, north-west Madagascar, around the field station where I will be living. Every day I will go to a different location, and collect data on frog biodiversity both by using traditional field techniques and audio recordings with a microphone. Then, during my analysis, I will perform various types of comparisons of the data collected in the two ways, and draw my conclusions.

So, basically this is the idea! There is more to it, but I won’t bother you more on this first introductory post 😉 For now, I’ll keep on developing the idea, and start learning how to use the software. I will be leaving on the 15th of June. From then onwards, I plan on updating my blog regularly about my experience in Madagascar – if the internet on site will be good enough! If not, I will post once I get back. Keep tuned, and you’ll definitely find out what happens 🙂

For the frogs!


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