following brief introduction to ornithology is an edited version of
Wikepedia's entry on the subject:
Ornithology is a branch of zoology that concerns the study of birds. Several aspects of ornithology differ from related disciplines, due partly to the high visibility and the aesthetic appeal of birds. Most marked among these is the extent of studies undertaken by amateurs working within the parameters of strict scientific methodology.
The science of ornithology has a long history and studies on birds have helped develop several key concepts in evolution, behaviour and ecology such as the definition of species, the process of speciation, instinct, learning, ecological niches, guilds, island biogeography, phylogeography and conservation. While early ornithology was principally concerned with descriptions and distributions of species, ornithologists today seek answers to very specific questions, often using birds as models to test hypotheses or predictions based on theories. Most modern biological theories apply across taxonomic groups and the number of professional scientists who identify themselves as "ornithologists" has therefore declined. A wide range of tools and techniques are used in ornithology and innovations are constantly made. In this regard the CymaScope is, perhaps, the newest (potential) addition to the ornithologist's armory of scientific tools to study bird calls, song and language.
The language of the birds has long been a topic for anecdote and speculation. That calls have meanings that are interpreted by listeners has been well demonstrated. However a language has, in addition to words, structures and rules. Studies to demonstrate the existence of language have been difficult due to the range of possible interpretations. The CymaScope offers a possible method of bird language study. A similar study is underway in the filed of dolphin language (see Oceanography section of this web site.) We would welcome discussions with ornithologists to set up a research project if sponsorship can be made available.
The owl’s call originates in its syrinx (the equivalent of the larynx in humans) and propagates away from the creature as a bubble-shaped emanation. The CymaScope principle shows us a slice through the sound bubble and this new technique allows the dynamic geometry of birdcalls to be studied in real time. Ornithologists commonly use spectrum analysis to analyze birdcalls, which displays the sonic energy graphically, however, the CymaScope is based on an analog principle in which the sounds are rendered visible by imprinting them onto the surface and sub surface of water. Imaging the barred owl’s call with a CymaScope represents an historic moment. With grateful thanks to interdisciplinary artist, Virginia Kistler, for commissioning this video.