A nationwide citizen science project coinciding with National Science Week is asking for assistance identifying five species of owls in short audio recordings.

The Little Desert Nature Lodge is the only Victorian site in the Hoot Detective project.

For the past two years, scientists from the Australian Acoustic Observatory (A2O) have placed hundreds of autonomous recording devices in 90 sites across forests, grasslands and other ecosystems across every state and territory except the ACT.

Sound snippets that might include noises made by owls have been identified and collated by an artificial intelligence system being built at the Observatory. The result is a trove comprising hours of recordings, divided into 10-second sections.

The idea is to hunt for Powerful, Barking, Boobook, Barn, and Masked owls.

Pictured above: A Boobook owl that took up residence in a tree outside the Dimboola Courier’s office a couple of years ago.

The results will provide important information about the range and numbers of these beloved birds of prey. They will also help researchers develop artificial intelligence (AI) systems to use in a new field of science, known as “eco-acoustics”.

Dr Ann Jones from the ABC explained the process of being involved.

“Simply sit at your computer, call up a recording, and listen out for the owls. You hear wild Australia at night – and sometimes it’s surprisingly tricky to distinguish, say, a barn owl among noisy insects, chorusing frogs or even wind or cars.”

The project is produced by ABC Science in collaboration with the Australian Acoustic Observatory (A2O) and commenced online on Monday 9th August 2021. It will until the end of August at www.hootdetective.net.au.