November 19, 2002

Natural Sounds Library Provides Access to Public

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By 2003, students, faculty, researchers and bird lovers world-wide will have online access to Cornell University’s Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds, the world’s largest collection of animal sounds. Managed by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the collection features a large variety of bird songs and other animal sounds and has expanded recently to include videos of animal behavior.

The new system will allow anyone interested in animal behavior to access the library’s website and browse through a variety of sounds and videos from their own personal computer. In the past, it took weeks to retrieve and deliver a sound. Now, the whole process will take only minutes.

Although the sounds and videos will be streamed to the users’ computer for free, downloading the material will cost a small fee. Library Director Jack Bradbury said that although the staff is still in the process of deciding how users will pay for the sounds, they hope to charge researchers and students as little money as possible.

“We’re trying to get as much out as we can, while paying our bills,” he said. “It costs money to keep this stuff up.”

The library plans to charge individuals and companies more for commercial use than they will charge casual users, according to Bradbury.

The sounds can be used in a variety of ways in ornithology classes, according to Prof. Charles Smith, natural resources. If the database is flexible enough, students could use the library to review sounds they’ve heard in the field, prepare for exams, and practice identifying birdcalls.

The database may also raise interest in ornithology among students and the general public.

“[There are] all sorts of neat things for students to see,” Bradbury said. “Being exposed to [this animal behavior]