My name is Michael Griggs, and I am a student at Emerson Jr. Sr. High
School in Emerson, New Jersey. Currently, I am enrolled in the Emerson
Science Research course in conjunction with Farleigh Dickinson University
in Teaneck, New Jersey. The course allows me to freely develop an
experiment of my own, on a topic of my choosing with the aid of a Mentor.
It also grants me 12 college credits. I chose Whale Communication using
voice analysis software and data found on the internet. However, I am
trying to find an authentic experiment, one that was never performed by
anyone else. With that in mind, I come to you asking if you could help aid
me in finding a particular problem to work on in this field. I am using 3
programs, Syrinx, Sigview, and Ishmael. All 3 programs are open source and
can be found on the internet. Where should I go with my experiment, knowing
that I have these voice analysis programs, and data in Wav And MP3 format?
If you could help suggest possible directions into this field it would be
appreciated. I am currently thinking of using the abilities of the program
to compare and contrast two or more whale sounds in the hopes of finding
some kind of variation or similarity that can aid the science community. Or
possibly comparing and contrasting Whale and Human "Speech". Any help would
be appreciated, so please contact me with a reply as soon as you can. Thank
you for reading, and I am sorry if this email is too long.
Is it just me or are these questions getting more and more sophisticated?
Your question is rightfully long because it's complex. I applaud your focus
on whale communication and your adherence to the scientific method. You
mention that you have data. I assume that means recorded
vocalizations. Your data are essential to designing your experiment, so I
would need to know more about the material you are working with. If you can
compare calls from various species, say bottlenose dolphin, beluga whale
and killer whale, you may be able to determine some similarities, for
instance, in call frequencies, that could suggest whether the different
species use the same frequencies, which could be an indication that they
could possibly communicate with one another. That's just a hypothetical
example of an experimental design.
Without going out in the field with a lot of electronic gear like
hydrophone arrays, computer analysis programs linked to your array, and
video cameras linked to your computers, plus the patience to wait several
seasons to get significant data, I'm not sure how to design a novel
experiment using data gathered for other purposes. You might take a look
at the Whale Museum's SeaSound program (http://www.seasound.org/) for some
ideas on how to design a field experiment.
In the meantime, I would also suggest you look into some of the theoretical
foundations of the questions being asked by these experiments. What do we
mean by whale communication that makes it different from, or similar to,
say, buffalo communication, or elephant communication? What are the
variations in communication used by different cetacean species? What are
the physical properties of water that make communicating through it
different from communicating through air? What are the anatomic
characteristics of cetaceans that are adaptations to the need to
communicate through water? What may be the cultural determinants that could
help us understand the role of communication for various species and
communities of cetaceans?
It is important to practice designing an experiment as part of an overall
preparation for a career in research and/or education, but there are many
other aspects to the empirical method as well, such as getting current in
the field in terms of the work already done or in progress and the
theoretical foundations of the questions being asked. Then comes the
publishing or comparing notes with colleagues. Scientific investigation and
discourse add up to a rich and rewarding way of life.
I hope you'll have more questions in the future.
This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Tue Jan 07 2003 - 08:03:51 EST