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NIMBioS Investigative Workshop

Bio-acoustic Structure

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Topic: Bio-acoustics as indicators of population structure: Data, techniques, and inferences

Meeting dates: June 25-27, 2018

Location: NIMBioS at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Frederick Archer and Shannon Rankin
Southwest Fisheries Science Center, La Jolla, CA

Objectives: Acoustic repertoires may serve as a central component for social cohesion, foraging, and reproduction; in turn, these sounds may reflect population or species boundaries for many taxa. As acoustic monitoring has increased in popularity, so has interest in using this data to identify population structure and quantify biological diversity. In cases where it is difficult to obtain other biological samples, acoustic data may be the only source of information from which population structure can be inferred. Historically, acoustic research on different taxa has proceeded independently, utilizing different features and developing different methods for classification or quantifying regional differences. Additionally, while it is clear that there is a genetic component to some bio-acoustic features, the degree to which they are shaped by the environment or can be used as a proxy for relatedness is still uncertain.

In order to make progress on the promise of using acoustics to characterize population structure, this workshop will bring together experts in bio-acoustics of multiple taxa, including birds, frogs, primates, and cetaceans, with mathematicians and computer scientists with expertise in classification, clustering, and information theory to develop a unified approach. This will be accomplished by: 1) compiling guidelines of best practices for designing acoustic surveys, 2) reviewing acoustic features of each taxon useful for identifying regional and taxonomic differences, and 3) reviewing methods for quantifying and comparing information content, generating classification models, and identifying biologically significant clusters. The results of this workshop will describe the current state of using acoustics to assess population structure, create a community bridging taxonomic disciplines, and provide new non-invasive tools for conservation.

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Bio-acoustic structure WordPress site.   NIMBioS has created a WordPress site to facilitate group communication and information sharing for the workshop. This is an interactive tool for sharing resources and comments before, during and after the meeting. All participants will receive an official email from WordPress inviting you to join the site. You will be asked to click on the link in the email from WordPress to accept the invitation. Before the meeting, we encourage you to introduce yourself to the rest of the group by writing a post with some details about your background and what you hope to gain from the meeting. Full details on how to post, comment and upload files to the WordPress site are available at the site (

Live-stream icon. Live Stream. The Workshop will be streamed live. Note that NIMBioS Investigative Workshops involve open discussion and not necessarily a succession of talks. In addition, the schedule as posted may change during the Workshop. To view the live stream, visit

NIMBioS Investigative Workshops focus on broad topics or a set of related topics, summarizing/synthesizing the state of the art and identifying future directions. Workshops have up to 35 participants. Organizers and key invited researchers make up half the participants; the remaining participants are filled through open application from the scientific community. Open applicants selected to attend are notified by NIMBioS within two-to-three weeks of the application deadline. Investigative Workshops have the potential for leading to one or more future Working Groups. Individuals with a strong interest in the topic, including post-docs and graduate students, are encouraged to apply. If needed, NIMBioS can provide support (travel, meals, lodging) for Workshop attendees, whether from a non-profit or for-profit organization.

A goal of NIMBioS is to enhance the cadre of researchers capable of interdisciplinary efforts across mathematics and biology. As part of this goal, NIMBioS is committed to promoting diversity in all its activities. Diversity is considered in all its aspects, social and scientific, including gender, ethnicity, scientific field, career stage, geography and type of home institution. Questions regarding diversity issues should be directed to Dr. Ernest Brothers, the NIMBioS Associate Director for Diversity Enhancement ( You can read more about our Diversity Plan on our NIMBioS Policies web page. The NIMBioS building is fully handicapped accessible.

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NSF logo. NIMBioS is supported by the National Science Foundation through NSF Award #DBI-1300426, with additional support from The University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.
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