Pilot Acoustic Monitoring System Fielded at Pōhakuloa Training Area
(L-R) Patrick Wolff with the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC), and Patrick Chaopricha with Cornell University checking one of the three pilot acoustic monitoring systems placed at Pōhakuloa Training Area. (Photo Credit: Amy Phillips) VIEW ORIGINAL

Partnering with our community is a key priority for U.S. Army Garrison – Pōhakuloa Training Area (PTA) and is demonstrated through participation in community events and organizations, partnership efforts, and community service projects. In addition to robust environmental and land stewardship programs, the installation also supports many requests from universities, students and non-profit organizations each year. These projects benefit the Army, our partners and our community.

One recent example of this community partnership at PTA is via a pilot program between the Army, the University of Hawai’i at Hilo, the University of Arkansas, Cornell University, and the U.S. Geological Survey to demonstrate an acoustic monitoring system to report detections of at-risk wildlife species in real time. This project was proposed two years ago and was implemented in January 2023.

“We very much looked forward to this project and are extremely happy it’s now here,” said Adrian Gamez, PTA Deputy to the Garrison Commander. “Protecting endangered species, fulfilling our environmental stewardship responsibilities while continuing our training support mission is very important to us at PTA.”

According to Patrick Wolff, one of the two U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) team members for this project, one of the reasons it took so long to implement the technology was the need to “develop algorithms to identify Hawai’i-specific species, like the Nēnē and Band-rumped Storm-petrel which can be found at PTA.”

The monitoring of federally listed species can be challenging using traditional methods of data collection and analysis. The new acoustic monitoring system being tested at PTA is cost-effective and seamlessly records and classifies animal sounds, then transmits real-time data for follow-on analysis and action, all to the benefit of our environment.

This project is part of the Environmental Security Technologies Certification Program (ESTCP) which is “a Department of Defense funded program to transition technologies developed outside of the DOD, to be used by the DOD,” said Jinelle Sperry, the other ERDC team member for this project. “In this case, using the technology developed by Cornell University to address Army challenges.”

Three acoustic monitoring units were placed at PTA to add to the traditional data collection methods employed by the environmental team at PTA. The units are powered by solar panels which adds to the systems’ cost-efficiency.

“If we can show that this works and is a viable, cost-effective technology, then ideally, we can scale-up to have more units on the landscape,” said Wolff.

“This is a great collaboration because it allows us to develop new technology which can be applied to other conservation efforts,” said Holger Klinck, with Cornell University. He adds that having access to a secure place with a local support team is critical for the development of such equipment, and PTA is ideal for this.

“This new technology will help all of us in our endeavors to be good stewards of the land, which is so important to us here at Pohakuloa,” said PTA Commander Lt. Col. Kevin Cronin. “We’re extremely proud to partner with the University of Hawai’i at Hilo, other universities across the nation, and other federal agencies to be the testing grounds for this acoustic monitoring system which will benefit communities and installations across the nation. We’re a team of teams and this project is a wonderful example of that partnership.”