Orcasound -- Listen for Whales

Metadata and annotation practices

Scott and Val Veirs, Beam Reach, SPC

Standards for Annotating & Storing Marine Passive Acoustic Meta/Data Workshop
Organized by ONC/Merdian | 19-20 Nov 2019 | Victoria, BC

Slides at: orcasound.net/data/talks/ | Gmail: sveirs, vveirs | Slack | Trello

Early history of U.S. Salish Sea hydrophone networks

Where have all the meta/data gone?

Extracted from Chronology of hydrophones in the Salish Sea (U.S. and Canada, including Johnstone Strait)
  • 60's-'70s: Single hydrophones:
    -- Rich Osborne (The Whale Museum) at Lime Kiln lighthouse;
    -- Ken Balcomb at the Center for Whale Research
  • 80s-90s:
    -- Localization array at Lime Kiln (Rich, David Bain, and Joe Olson);
    -- Vashon Hydrophone Project (ACS);
    -- 1978-1983 John Ford
  • 2000s:
    ~2001-2004: Val and Colorado College students establish Orcasound Lab 5km north of Lime Kiln;
    -- Andy Foote thesis (2004); Monika Wieland thesis (2007);
    ~2005-2012: Beam Reach students use hydrophones at Lime Kiln & Orcasound Lab (funding from WDFW, Beam Reach, and Cornell University) [Metadata example]

Neptune's fist!

Orcasound financial history

Who pays to archive meta/data & annotations?


  • Funding from NOAA to expand from Lime Kiln to 5 locations;
  • 5-year grant through TWM with Val and Scott of Beam Reach as co-PIs for acoustics


  • Beam Reach maintains network; organizes and re-brands as Orcasound
  • 2016+: Jason (SMRU Consulting) maintains Lime Kiln with TWM
  • 2017 Kickstarter funds re-engineering of new Orcasound hardware and software

Orcasound is a cooperative effort...

...of non-profit educational organizations, tech specialists, and researchers

15 organizational members (as of fall 2019):

        Beam Reach, SPC
        Colorado College, Physics & Environmental Science
        Orca Network
        Port Townsend Marine Science Center
        Orca Behavior Institute
        Cetacean Research Technology
        Whale Scout
        Deep Green Wilderness
	LAB-core System 
        Friends of Lime Kiln Society (FOLKS)
        The Whale Trail
        The Center for Whale Research
        Oceans Initiative
	Pacific Mammal Research
        Memorial University (St. Johns node?!)

You can join Orcasound, too! Just read and e-sign the MOA.

Orcasound 2.0: new locations, node hardware/software, and app in 2019

Vision: Open source software, open data access, real-time engagement of citizen scientists and cloud-computing

Real-time inspiration: ~5 decades of live-stream pioneering by OrcaLive (Paul Spong and Helena Symonds)

Thanks to: 2017 Kickstarter backers, "hall of fame" devs & designers, and the 2018-2019 hackathons at UW, Microsoft, and DemocracyLab

Public launch of Orcasound app in Nov 2018: live.orcasound.net

New locations

Hydrophone nodes

  • Current: Orcasound Lab; Bush Point; Port Townsend
  • Planned in 2020: Eagle Point (funded); Clallum Bay; Seattle Aquarium & Neah Bay?

Outreach/education nodes

  • Seattle Aquarium listening kiosk
  • Port Townsend Marine Science Center listening station built with Killer Whale Tales and NOAA support
  • 2018: Langley Whale Center Ocean Listening Exhibit
  • 2019: Lime Kiln Visitor Center audio/video kiosk
  • 2020: Integration of new live streaming tech and citizen science into extant educational nodes

Orcasound hardware evolution

A listening node for less than $1000 (U.S.)!

Basic ingredients (and costs):

  • ($ 50) DIY stand
  • ($300 x2) Hydrophones -- dual for redundancy, stereo listening, & bearing
  • ($125) Pisound board -- 48/96/192 kHz/channel, stereo 24-bit ADC
  • ($ 35) Raspberry Pi 3b+/4 -- single board computer
  • ($ 35) Audio cables & waterproof box installed near the shoreline
  • ($ 75) Power over Ethernet -- from box to 24-hour UPS & Internet router

60% of cost is hydrophones! (>75-95% for research nodes)

DIY Guide: How to build your own hydrophone node!

Orcasound node software

What are meta/data formats?

Lossy & lossless data are archived in the cloud

Orcasound annotation efforts

Real-time detection (and notification)

Beta-testing more interactive UI in fall 2019: beta.orcasound.net
(DEMO: player & admin UI)

Open training & testing data for SRKW models

Audacity labels

Audacity: select time bounds (& frequencey)


Product of 2019 Microsoft hackathons

Developed by Akash Mahajan, Prakruti Gogia, & Nithya Govindarajan