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Terra streams backyard nature sounds while tracking bird migration

Just funded on Kickstarter, Terra Project aims to create a network of devices that track migration while letting people livestream nature's soundtrack into their home. After being placed in a backyard or other outdoor setting and hooked up to a wifi network, Terra's weatherproof, saucer-shaped device picks up bird calls and other wildlife sounds and broadcasts them to a user's speakers or headphones.

Human voices, traffic and other man-made sounds are filtered out through digital signal processing — which also addresses privacy concerns — leaving a real-time version of the natural soundscapes that rack up millions of streams on YouTube and Spotify. Terra also automatically identifies which birds are picked up by its microphone, giving people a deeper understanding of birds they share a habitat with.

But Terra is about more than entertainment and education. By listening in on night-time flight calls — periodic chirps and cheeps — the New Jersey-based company collects data on which birds are passing by. It can also detect radio-tagged birds. That information is sent to a central database and processed along with data from other Terra devices, and made freely available to researchers worldwide to help track migration patterns. 

Trend Bite

Backyard birding surged during lockdowns, as both a socially-distanced diversion and a way to engage with nature. Research on the positive impacts of nature on people usually focuses on going out into green spaces. But even in non-pandemic times, limited access, busy schedules and poor health can get in the way. When they do, devices like Terra and  the bird selfie feeder Bird Buddy offer an easily accessible way to connect to the natural world. Add in the do-good factor of contributing to science, and you've got a concept worth expanding to other domains!

Innovation of the day