Researchers’ Night

Last Friday we had Researchers’ Night here in Poznan! This is the special occasion to see what those strange researchers are working on and hear them trying to talk about their research in understandable language…

Together with my colleagues Mathieu, Kasia, and Marysia we prepared the one of the many scientific ‘shows’ that visitors could see on that night at the Facult of Biology, Adam Mickiewicz University.

I was very surprised by the scale of the event. There was about 8000 people at the faculty that night! We planned to have six groups by 15 people. All the groups were fully booked in advance but we could not resist to bring always in some more people who were interested in our ‘show’.

Our session was called: ‘What your voice tells about you’ and we wanted to show why and how we study animal sounds. We would first let people hear several sound examples and would let them guess whether they had heard person who was a boy or agirl, big or small, young or old, etc. We wanted to illustrate that people can extract quite some information from voice alone. We also played back sounds of differnet animals to show that we indeed can extract similar information from animals.

We than had three stands where people could have some hands-on experience of our current research. We had live spectrogram, which is the basic tool for our research. Visitors played back some sounds and could instaneously see how those sounds look on the spectrogram. They could play around with their own voice and see their voice on the screen at the same time.

Your voice can reveal where are you from… We were further talking about the project on yellowhammer dialects in Czech republic, Poland and indeed around the world! Dialects are so easy to distinguish in yellowhammers. Moreover, it is a citizen science project where anyone can contribute recordings and help researchers to understand why there are dialects in birds. Check the map! It is so cool!

Your voice can also reveal your individual identity… We asked visitors to participate in real experiment in which we want people to match photos and sounds of individual corncrake males. We would like to know whether calls of corncrake could have evolveded to signal individual identity and whether it makes distinguishing individuals easier. It is possible to use different acoustic or visual traits to distinguish animal individuals but did they (or some of them) evolve to signal individual identity?

var01 - LL slide 1

We already have some results from Friday night but we need to do some small modification to our setup and test few more people before we can conclude on this question.

Whole night was exhausting but at the same time very pleasant experience! It was great to see so many people interested in our science! We hope to have a short video about our session soon…

Author: Pavel Linhart

Animal Behaviour / Acoustic communication researcher. Polonez Fellow at Adam Mickiewicz University

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