Audio Observation Workflow

At time or writing, of the 36M observations in iNat, only 61K have audio. That is only .1%.

I would like some help tracing audio observation workflows to their simplest and most accessible. Recent updates have streamlined initiating or attaching audio natively within the app (THANK YOU INAT STAFF!) which has decreased a lot of resistance that kept me from using it, but I think there is more work to do here, and a lot of good reasons to do it.

Some of the technical obstacles are:

  • Necessity of third party recording app.
  • Relatively poor audio quality of phones.
  • Clipping extended recordings for succinct observation data.
  • Protocols for good data collection that are not as culturally familiar as visual media.
  • Limited audio file formats accepted for use.
  • Attaching audio may require users to navigate their phone’s confusing folder structure.

My idea workflow for audio observations would be:

  • Be in nature.
  • Open iNaturalist app.
  • Start audio observation.
  • See layout very similar to BirdNet while it records to cache. (Spectrogram wipe, record/pause button, selection tool.)
  • In field or at home, pause recording and use selection tool to generate new observations from clips, or approve entire clip for a single observation.
  • At end of recording, move to observation page(s) in the same manner as a photo. Add identification or notes, etc. (Eventually, identification suggestions from audio.)
  • Return to home screen.

This is not a feature request, per se. I would like each of you to fill in what I’m missing to get the easiest method available to the most people. Feature requests, helpful advice, personal anecdotes and philosophizing on the relative merits of audio observations should spin off from this to other awesome audio-related threads.

What other factors create resistance when you want to make an audio observation? How would you improve or amend this workflow to get audio to the masses?

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Making app be able to use audio files alone could be a big improvement.

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Ooh this would be fantastic! I agree, in the iPhone app, there’s no way to add audio to the observation. On the rare occasions that I find something worth recording (I mostly do plants, not too many sounds to record there haha), I’ll leave the iNat app, switch to Voice Memos, select and edit the clip in Voice Memos, then go back to the iNat app, make an observation with a general photo of the area and a note that an audio file is pending, submit that observation, then log into iNat through a web browser and attach the audio file. It’s a pain, but it’s the best way I’ve found so far for me to accurately post the coordinates and also include an audio file while out in the field. Even the simple ability to add an audio file from the iPhone app would be ideal, but recording/editing in-app would be even better.

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this is my exact process too. half my audio observations get lost in transit because i lose interest by the time i make it to my computer to upload the audio

I use Android so I wasn’t aware iOs lacked this function. Definitely a basic first step. I remember doing the same thing until they added the feature.

I put in a feature request, so when it’s approved you can vote on it. Thanks!

UPDATE: I was informed that there is an outstanding action item to bring the iOs app up to speed with the Android app. Hang tight, guys!

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Why is the iPhone app different to Android? When I was programming apps I’d just select a different target in the compiler. Admittedly I never did iPhone but I did do Android/Windows cross-platform (which is arguably more different than Android-iPhone).

I also don’t use my phone for recording observations but workflow for using my camera and desktop are:

  1. Record a video (manual focus with lens cap on).
  2. Convert/extract video to mp3 using VLC Player (free software).
  3. Maximize volume and clip using mp3DirectCut (free software).
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I use an audio recorder app on my phone.

If I am expecting to be doing audio obs, I leave the recording running on my phone, and when I hear something interesting, I stop the recording and restart it. The end of each recording should in theory have something interesting! I make the time of those observations to be the time of the start of the next recording.

Often I am making an audio observation because I can’t get photo evidence (I can hear the bird, but where is it?). More often than not the maker of the sound is gone by the time I get out my phone and start the recording!

Before uploading I use audacity on PC to clip out the audio segment (I dislike 5 minute recordings where there is only 10 seconds of relevant sound!) and I also clean it up briefly by removing background noise with a noise filter and then normalise the result so that it is not too loud or soft. I try to match audio up with photo evidence where I can.

I have considered making an audio observation of plants before… one occassion was when visiting a large collection of bamboos, and each stand of a different species seemed to have a different “song” as the wind moved through the stems and gave off a windchime effect, with pops and cracks and many other weird and surprising sound effects. Palms are another one that create noteworthy sound effects, both in wind movement and fronds falling!

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I started recording audio for eBird, so my process has based on their recommendations for recording, apps, and preparing and editing audio. I’m using the Android RecForge II app with their recommended settings. Sometimes my audio is short and loud enough on its own and then I’ll just upload it directly. But often it’s quiet or long with lots of distracting noises, so then I’ll move it to my computer and listen to it with a headset and edit it with Audacity.
I procrastinate a lot both with getting files from my phone to my computer and with editing them, but the editing is actually a lot faster than I initially expected and makes the audio a lot easier to hear.

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