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Researcher makes call to help wildlife

Dale Joachim
Dale Joachim
Photo / Donna Coveney
Louisiana populations of the swallow-tailed kite may be helped by cell phone technology adapted by MIT MLK Visiting Professor Dale Joachim.
Louisiana populations of the swallow-tailed kite may be helped by cell phone technology adapted by MIT MLK Visiting Professor Dale Joachim.
Photo / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Dale Joachim, an electrical engineer whose research on acoustic sensor systems could significantly improve both wildlife monitoring and musical understanding, has been named a Martin Luther King Jr. Visiting Professor for 2006-2007.

In his studies of communication among birds, Joachim applies sensor and signal processing methods to "something very dear to me -- nature conservancy," he said.

Currently, wildlife biologists monitor populations of some bird species by standing in the birds' habitat, replicating particular birdcalls and logging and analyzing the responses they get. Joachim hopes to establish an encoded form of birdcalls suitable for remote cell phone broadcast. Once programmed to broadcast birdcalls, the cell phones will also serve as channels, sending the birds' responses back to a home base for logging and analysis.

Joachim has focused initially on the conservation of swallow-tailed kites -- birds native to Louisiana whose population is "being decimated by great horned owls," he said.

Success in his research could lead to federal certification of cellular telephones for use in conservation monitoring programs, Joachim said.

Joachim also studies the cognitive processes involved in accurately recognizing specific chords within musical compositions. He hopes to develop intelligent systems to automate musical chord transcription and, ultimately, to "emulate a human bass player's understanding sufficiently well to play a coherent bass line accompaniment," he said.

"We are extremely happy to have Professor Joachim join us as an MLK Jr. Visiting Professor. His teaching and his research interest in the use of technology for wildlife monitoring should lead to a very effective stay here," said Michael Feld, professor of physics and co-chair of the MLK Jr. Celebration Committee.

As an assistant professor at Tulane University in New Orleans, Joachim taught courses in computer architecture, digital logic and speech processing. He instituted Tulane's Speech and Sound Processing Laboratory for research on audio signature detection, identification and localization.

He has more than 10 years of experience working in industry. He served as principal electrical engineer at Sanders, Lockheed Martin, in Nashua, N.H., and as design engineer at Zenith Data Systems in Michigan.

Joachim began teaching at Tulane in 2001. He received the M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in electrical engineering from Michigan State University in 1994 and 1998, respectively.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on April 26, 2006 (download PDF).

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