This spring and early summer, more than 1,350 people backed a Kickstarter campaign to fund the Terra Project, which will create a way to monitor bird migrations and populations at a scale never before possible. The campaign raised more than $280,000, so the developers, birder/naturalists Mike Lanzone, Scott Whittle, and Casey Halverson, can now scale up their operation to produce Terra devices, which are small, weatherproof microphones designed to be placed in a yard (shown above).
They contain a radio-receiver, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi, and once a device is in place, users access a companion app to connect to it, which will let them stream the audio of birds and other nature sounds into the home; identify bird sounds with automatic sound identification and species info; and pick up radio-tagged birds that pass nearby and see where they have been.
Users can also play sounds from curated sites around the world — for example, a rainforest in Panama or a waterfall in Hawai’i. And they can connect to optional yard sensors that will monitor soil moisture, flooding, weather, and more to give a full picture of what’s going on outside. Each Terra device relays the sounds and signals it picks up to a central database, permitting scientists to better understand bird movements and populations. It will be a unique tool for scientists and conservationists and will allow conservationists to fight the current trend of bird decline, which has recently been calculated at 30% over the past 50 years. This network will collect millions of hours of song and other data in the first year alone, and the dataset it creates will allow a depth and level of detail previously unheard of.
“We believe that by connecting people in this way, we can get them more interested in their local wildlife, not just the wildlife they see on TV in nature shows, and that in turn Terra will help foster a more personal connection and stewardship of the environment as a whole,” says Whittle.