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FAQ

Boobook blue eyes

Southern boobook (David Clode, unsplash)

  • General

    What do I do?

    To become a Hoot Detective you just need to Get Started. There is a Help Guide on this page on what to do.

    Who can do Hoot Detective?

    Almost anyone can become a Hoot Detective, although lower primary school children may require some supervision.

    The Hoot Detective website is an accessible website. Hearing-impaired people may be able to use the spectrograms to identify what’s in the sound files. There is additional information on the spectrogram patterns on The Owls.

    Do I need any training?

    The Help Guide will give you some basic information on what to do.

    Make sure you listen to the example calls – that’s the speaker buttons next to the owl names on Get Started.  They cycle through a number of calls – from adults to juveniles.

    You can also familiarise yourself with the owl calls on The Owls, where there are a number of longer examples of calls for both adults and juveniles, and a couple of examples of spectrograms. 

    Do I need to sign on?

    No, you don’t need to provide any personal details to take part in Hoot Detective.

    But you can keep track of what you’ve done by saving your results to a ‘magic link’.

    How does the magic link work?

    You can keep track of what you’ve done by sending a magic link to your email address. Simply click on the link in the email you receive from Hoot Detective. This will allow you to access what you’ve done in previous sessions on Hoot Detective - and continue adding to your tally.

    Your email address will undergo a one-way hash, which means we won’t be storing it anywhere on the Hoot Detective website. 

    If you want us to stop keeping a record to your magic link, you just click on ‘Log out’.

    Help I’ve lost my magic link!

    If you can’t find the magic link email, you can enter your email address again and have another magic link sent.  Magically, this will still keep track of what you’ve done in previous sessions.

    Can I upload my own owl recordings or sightings?

    No. Hoot Detective is only about listening for owl calls in audio recorded by the Australian Acoustic Observatory.

    If you have a bird sighting you have made yourself you can add it to BirdLife Australia's Birdata site.

    How long will Hoot Detective be running?

    You can participate in Hoot Detective until at least February 2022, but the competition to win binoculars closes at the end of August 2021.

  • Identifying what’s in the audio

    How do I know what the owls sound like?

    You should listen to the example calls – that’s the speaker buttons next to the owl names on Get Started..  They cycle through a number of calls – from adults to juveniles.

    You can also familiarise yourself with the owl calls on The Owls, where there are a number of longer examples of calls for both adults and juveniles, and a couple of examples of spectrograms.

    Do I have to be 100 per cent sure of the call?

    No! If you’re not sure please make your best guess. Even that will help the researchers, who have a plan for how to manage uncertainty.

    Each sound file will be listened to by at least 10 different people.  If 10 out or 10 people say it is a powerful owl, then it’s almost certain that it is.

    But if just three out of 10 think it’s a powerful owl, then an expert will listen to that audio to identify what’s in it.

    This means that the experts can put their attention and time where it’s really needed, and is dramatically reducing their workload.

    Can I submit a text comment as well?

    No. We know that many people would love to tell us that they heard a tawny frogmouth, or magpies, but reading through thousands of comments would create more work for the researchers – and we’re trying to reduce their work, not add to it.

    I made a mistake but I’ve already submitted it. Can I change it?

    No, but don’t worry too much about it.

    Your safety net is that at least 10 people will do each audio file. And there’s a process in place to deal with uncertainty in a call - if 10 out or10 people say it is a powerful owl, then it’s almost certain that it is.

    But if just three out of 10 en think it’s a powerful owl, then an expert will listen to that audio to identify what’s in it.

    I can’t decide on what owl it is, what should I do?

    Make your best guess possible.

  • The competition to win binoculars

    The competition

    Take part in Hoot Detective and you could win an amazing pair of binoculars to take along on all your nature treks — or even use in your backyard.

    To enter you need to fill in the form on this page with your email and your answer to the question ‘What could we learn from owls?’ (in 50 words or less).

    The most creative or insightful entry will be the winner. To be eligible you must also be signed up for the ABC Science Newsletter. You must also be over 18 to enter and an Australian resident.

    When does the competition end?

    Sunday August 29, 11.59pm AEST

  • Where can I find more?

    What’s the science behind this?

    We go into some of the science behind Hoot Detective on About.

    For more detail you should read this ABC Science story Listening to the planet

    Where can I find out more about the Acoustic Observatory?

    At the Australian Acoustic Observatory website

    How can I find out more about the owls?

    There’s more detail on The Owls

    We will add more stories from ABC Science as they’re published.

    You can also check out the Powerful Owl project and other pages at Birdlife Australia.

    Can I get involved in other citizen science projects?

    Yes definitely!

    There’s BirdLife Australia’s Birdata web portal

    You can also find citizen science project near you at the ACSA project finder

    How can I find out the results of this work?

    The best way to stay in touch with this project is to sign up for the ABC Science Newsletter – any new developments will be included in that.

    It will take a while for any findings from this project to come out though. That’s because this is the very first stage in the scientific research – identifying what’s in the audio.  Once that’s done, researchers will analyse the data, and eventually publish a scientific paper of their findings. This process can take from months to several years.

  • Contact us

    How do I get in touch?

    Use the ABC contact us form

    You can let us know about any technical issues, any improvements or even how much you’ve enjoyed Hoot Detective!