A comparison of methods for detecting right whale calls


  • David K. Mellinger Coop. Inst. for Mar. Res. Studies, Oregon State University


Conservation, Error analysis, Frequency modulation, Hydrophones, Marine biology, Neural networks, Optimization, Parameter estimation, Personnel training, Real time systems, Signal to noise ratio, Error rate, Manual training, Spectrogram correlation, Spectrograms


North Atlantic, North Pacific, and southern right whales all produce the up call, a frequency-modulated upsweep in the 50-200 Hz range. This call is one of the most common sounds, and frequently the most common sound, received from right whales, and as such is a useful indicator of the presence of right whales for acoustic surveys. A data set was prepared of 1857 calls and 6359 non-call sounds recorded from North Atlantic right whales (Eubalaena glacialis) near Georgia and Massachusetts. Two methods for the detection of the calls were compared: spectrogram correlation and a neural network. Spectrogram correlation parameters were chosen two ways, by manual choice using a sample of 20 calls, and by an optimization procedure that used all available calls. Neural network weights were trained via backpropagation on 9/10 of the test data set. Performance was measured separately for calls of different signal-to-noise ratio, as SNR heavily influences the performance of any detector. Results showed that the neural network performed best at this task, achieving an error rate of less than 6%, and is thus the preferred detection method here. Spectrogram correlation may be useful in situations in which a large set of training data is not available, as manual training on a small set of examples achieved an error rate (26%) that may be acceptable for many applications.

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How to Cite

Mellinger DK. A comparison of methods for detecting right whale calls. Canadian Acoustics [Internet]. 2004 Jun. 1 [cited 2024 Jul. 23];32(2):55-6. Available from: https://jcaa.caa-aca.ca/index.php/jcaa/article/view/1588



Proceedings of the Acoustics Week in Canada