Have you ever listened to the complex sounds of a whale song and wished you could understand what's being said? Well here's your chance to help scientists make sense of these enigmatic underwater calls.
Scientific American has teamed up with the Citizen Science Alliance (CSA) to bring us The Whale Song Project. Also known as Whale FM, The Whale Song Project was designed to assist scientists at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts and the Sea Mammal Research Unit in Scotland with their research on the calls of killer whales (i.e. orcas) and pilot whales.
Here's how it works, according to SciAm:
Through the Whale Song Project, citizen scientists are presented with a whale call and shown where it was recorded on a map of the world's oceans and seas [see screenshot below]. After listening to the whale call — represented on screen as a spectrogram showing how the pitch of the sound changes with time — citizen scientists are asked to listen to a number of potential matching calls from the project's database. If a match is found, the citizen scientist clicks on that sound's spectrogram and the results are stored.
Previous research has demonstrated that individual families of killer whales have their own unique dialects; closely related orca families have even been known to share similar calls. Dialects have also been collected from Pilot Whales, but they've yet to be categorized to the extent that the orca calls have.
By going through whale.fm's collection of whale songs, you can help WHOI and SMRU researchers categorize them, and contribute toward improving the understanding of which whales are making these sounds, why they're making them, and what it is they might actually be saying.