Mongabay founder joins conservation bioacoustics council at Cornell

Mongabay Founder and CEO Rhett Ayers Butler has joined the advisory council for the K. Lisa Yang Center for Conservation Bioacoustics at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology

“Bioacoustics will revolutionize biodiversity monitoring, transform how we evaluate the effectiveness of conservation, and create new opportunities to engage the public around wildlife and ecosystems,” said Butler. “The K. Lisa Yang Center for Conservation Bioacoustics is at the forefront of this movement and it’s a great honor to be involved.”

Established out of work by Cornell Lab of Ornithology researchers on whale and elephant communication in the 1980s, the Yang Center for Conservation Bioacoustics is today one of the leading institutions using analysis of terrestrial and aquatic soundscapes to inform conservation policy and decision-making. The Center developed and built a wide range of technologies–both software and hardware–that has enabled and empowered the whole field of conservation bioacoustics.

“Bioacoustics is an incredibly interdisciplinary and rapidly developing field,” said Holger Klinck, the Center’s Director. “Our expertise is centered around developing, applying, and disseminating passive acoustic monitoring techniques.” 

“However, to maximize our conservation impacts, we need to pay closer attention to other disciplines that don’t fall into our sweet spot. And this was one of the primary reasons the advisory council was established: to help us identify and address “blind spots.” For example, effective science communication and engagement strategies are critical to maximizing conservation impacts. Rhett’s advice will be invaluable in developing these strategies, and our team is thrilled to collaborate with Mongabay moving forward.” 

“Bioacoustics data and research will also generate substantial opportunities to inform and strengthen environmental news reporting globally,” said Butler. “We also see great potential for bioacoustics data to serve as a source of story ideas.”

Butler’s interest in bioacoustics pre-dates his decision to join the Center’s advisory council. Butler was a co-author of a 2019 paper published in the journal Science, that highlighted the potential of bioacoustics to improve conservation outcomes, including the effectiveness of corporate zero deforestation commitments.

View Mongabay’s ongoing coverage of advances and research in bioacoustics here.