Cacophony Blog

10 Feb 2020 - 16:43
New lens design

Shaun from our commercial partner 2040 Ltd has just published a new blog article which covers a host of recent developments with the Cacophony Project's Thermal Camera.

3 Feb 2020 - 13:14
Cacophony Index chart mockup

The first version of the Cacophony Index is now live. The Cacophony Project was first started to attempt to answer a seemingly simple question: "is a bird population getting better or worse over time?". We now have a tool available which can start to answer this question.

7 Nov 2019 - 10:48

We recently came across a new and very cool piece of research which investigated the effectiveness of conventional trial cameras for detecting various North American mammals. To conserve power, trail cameras stay asleep most of the time and use a basic motion sensor to wake the camera up to take photos. To test how many animals were missed by the motion sensor they configured the cameras to take a photo every minute and also whenever the motion sensor detected triggered.

1 Nov 2019 - 13:37

Author: David Blake

David Blake is a semi-retired property investor who now likes to spend his time trapping pests and planting native trees. From time to time he helps out by volunteering at The Cacophony Project doing some filming and occasionally contributing to parts of the software.

3 Oct 2019 - 16:29
Trail camera attached to tree

Conventional trail cameras are cheap and offer high image resolutions. They are designed for detecting larger animals such as pigs and deer. Thermal cameras, like those used by the Cacophony Project, are much more expensive and typically have lower resolution. Conventional cameras need an IR light source to "see" at night while thermal cameras do not.

5 Sep 2019 - 13:53
Weatherproof battery packs

Some of the predator monitoring and trapping solutions we are developing require more power than traditional tools. This article explores why we think the effectiveness of tools is more important than power use for most of the applications we are interested in.

23 Aug 2019 - 13:26

We're really excited about 2040, a social venture that is commercialising the technologies developed by the Cacophony Project. They've recently published a blog article about some ongoing research by Tim Hunt from Wintec who is using audio recordings gathered by the Bird Monitor product to automatically detect and identify morepork calls.

8 Aug 2019 - 15:14

We have created a new tool that allows us to test many different methods to lure and capture predators of any type, using sound and thermal vision. We are calling this tool the Cacophony Predator Lab.

In this blog article, we will discuss how sound lure experiments can be set up to test the effectiveness of various sounds for attracting possums. The sound lure software is configured from a web interface that allows you to upload any set of sounds and play them at any volume or time sequence.

15 Jul 2019 - 20:25

Author: Ben McEwen

Hi, I’m Ben. I am a student in my final year of Mechatronics Engineering at the University of Canterbury. This semester I have been working with the Cacophony Project to explore improved ways of tracking animals in video footage for better predator recognition and for the elimination of invasive predator species.

17 Jun 2019 - 21:49

Recent testing of the Cacophony Project's thermal camera has reinforced how good this type of technology is for predator monitoring and control. This blog post highlights the core reasons that the thermal camera developed by The Cacophony Project is a great technology for this application.

The key advantages are:

10 Jun 2019 - 13:42
Authors: Grant Ryan, James Ross, Elaine Murphy and Merel Jansen

As highlighted in earlier blog posts, the Cacophony Thermal camera is much more sensitive for the detection of predators than the next best tool. It is able to see 3 to 50 times more activity, allows us to make observations that have never been possible before.

29 May 2019 - 21:46

Last week, Menno Finlay-Smits from the Cacophony Project participated on a Techweek 2019 panel which was centred on the idea of "Tech for Good". The panelists each represented an organisations that each attempt to "do good" in the world in its own way. We discussed various ways that organisations can do this, as well as emerging entity structures that focus on more than just profit.

27 May 2019 - 15:19

We have continued the rat detection experiments recently described on this blog and have updated results to report.

13 May 2019 - 15:24
Authors: David Blake and Grant Ryan

David Blake is a contributor to the Cacophony Project and has been running an experiment to test the relative sensitivity of Cacophony Project thermal cameras to off-the-shelf trail cameras for detection of rats. It is well

10 Apr 2019 - 13:53

Every year there are a number of compelling reports of encounters with the elusive South Island Kōkako. This precious bird with a beautiful haunting song was once declared extinct but hope remains of finding it alive and bringing it back from the brink of extinction.

22 Mar 2019 - 13:30

The Cacophony Project is fortunate to have many talented people helping to move it forward.

11 Mar 2019 - 14:55
11 Feb 2019 - 15:11

Grant Ryan from the Cacophony Project was featured on Radio New Zealand's Nine to Noon show on Friday morning. The interview covered a wide range of topics with a focus on the origins and philosophy of the project. Click below to listen for yourself.

28 Jan 2019 - 15:12, the annual local conference centred around the Linux operating system, was held last week in Christchurch. Linux is the basis for almost everything we create at the Cacophony Project, and Clare and Menno were there to talk about where the project is at and where it's heading.

7 Dec 2018 - 10:34

The Cacophony Project is an ambitious project with many moving parts. It can be difficult to understand what our technology does and how the various components of the project fit together.

Here's the high level parts of the project and how they relate to each other:

21 Nov 2018 - 16:22

We are often asked the status of the project so we thought it would be useful to share a table which highlights how we think about our progress. These are a set of milestones that need to be achieved to make New Zealand predator free. We define various phases that each milestone moves through as progress is made.

9 Nov 2018 - 12:12

On November 4 2018, the Cacophony Project was privileged to become a signatory of the Banks Peninsula 2050 Predator Free Initiative. Along with key personnel from DOC, Ecan, Christchurch City Council, Banks Peninsula Iwi and Banks Peninsula Conservation Trust, the Cacophony Project's Clare McClennan was present to participate in the signing ceremony held at the Living Springs amphitheater. This historic partnership aims to focus and coordinate efforts to eliminate invasive predators on Banks Peninsula.

29 Oct 2018 - 13:28

This article comes to us from Tim Armitage who has recently installed a Cacophonometer at his property to help monitor the effects of predator controls.

Cacophonometer in the wild

Early October 2018 we received our Cacophonometer at our Sandspit home. The setup process was very simple with the app having been pre-installed and the main next steps being getting our account created online and the device registered. The location we chose was around 20 meters from our house (a site with power available) and a small WiFi extender soon fulfilled the coverage required to ensure the upload process was reliable. We soon had plenty of recordings to sample with the ‘meter following the pattern set by the software – i.e. greater intensity of records around dawn and dusk.

5 Oct 2018 - 11:36

The thermal video footage from the Cacophonator devices has proven to be invaluable for machine learning and studying predator behaviour.  Occasionally, however, we noticed that recording for some animals was starting later than it should. In this article we discuss the reasons why this was happening and what we have done to improve our animal detection algorithm. 

24 Sep 2018 - 15:30

David Blake is a semi-retired property investor who now likes to spend his time trapping pests and planting native trees. From time to time he helps out by volunteering at The Cacophony Project doing some filming and occasionally contributing to parts of the software.

17 Sep 2018 - 11:30

The video in this link shows a visual representation of the contributions to the software components of the project over time. The visualisation is based on source code changes pushed to Github and shows the areas of the software being worked on and the people involved. You can see how the project builds momentum as more and more clever people get involved. It also highlights the sophistication of the software that links all the parts of our predator-free projects together.

3 Sep 2018 - 20:20

The Cacophony Project started with the development of a simple cell phone based tool that can measure birdsong so there is an objective measure of how well birds are doing as predator control is rolled out. This product is now ready to be more widely tested around New Zealand.

27 Aug 2018 - 12:20
Internals of the new hardware

The last couple of months have seen us make more improvements to our Cacophonator hardware. The changes made have been driven by the demands of upcoming projects and targets.

Up until now we've typically run our devices on mains power. We've preferred sites which are near native bush but have access to a wall socket (sometimes with long extension cords!). This has gotten us quite far in terms of testing our prototypes and gathering footage to train our machine learning classifier but obviously isn't going to be a long term solution. Being able to run on battery power opens up a huge range of new areas to our devices.

The Cacophonator hardware now incorporates a buck-boost converter which allows it to work from a number of types of power sources including various battery technologies with differing output voltages (which change as the battery discharges). The buck-boost converter also continues to support mains power using a classic "wall wart" AC adapter.

New battery packs

We explored a number of options for battery power and after a number of false starts and experiments we've found a New Zealand based manufacturer who will make weatherproof lithium-ion battery packs which meet our needs exactly. These packs have performed well in the cold and in heavy rain. A Cacophonator can run for 5-6 nights (turning off during the day) on a single battery pack and we have ideas on how to extend battery life further.