Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Minnesota
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Munger, J. E., D. P. Herrera, S. M. Haver, L. Waterhouse, M. F. McKenna, R. P. Dziak, J. Gedamke, S. A. Heppell, J. H. Haxel. 2022. Machine learning analysis reveals relationship between pomacentrid calls and environmental cues. Marine Ecology Progress Series 681:197-210. DOI:


Sound production rates of fishes can be used as an indicator for coral reef health, providing an opportunity to utilize long-term acoustic recordings to assess environmental change. As acoustic datasets become more common, computational techniques need to be developed to facilitate analysis of the massive data files produced by long-term monitoring. Machine learning techniques demonstrate an advantage in the identification of fish sounds over manual sampling approaches. Here we evaluate the ability of convolutional neural networks to identify and monitor call patterns for pomacentrids (damselfishes) in a tropical reef region of the western Pacific. A stationary hydrophone was deployed for 39 months(2014-2018) in the National Park of American Samoa to continuously record the local marine acoustic environment. A neural network was trained—achieving 94%identification accuracy of pomacentrids—to demonstrate the applicability of machine learning in fish acoustics and ecology. The distribution of sound production was found to vary on diel and interannual timescales. Additionally, the distribution of sound production was correlated with wind speed, water temperature, tidal amplitude, and sound pressure level. This research has broad implications for state--of--the--art acoustic analysis and promises to be an efficient, scalable asset for ecological research, environmental monitoring and conservation planning.