Raspberry Pi listening posts ‘hear’ the Borneo rainforest

These award-winning, solar-powered audio recorders, built on Raspberry Pi, have been installed in the Borneo rainforest so researchers can listen to the local ecosystem 24/7. The health of a forest ecosystem can often be gaged according to how much noise it creates, as this signals how many species are around.

And you can listen to the rainforest too! The SAFE Acoustics website, funded by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), streams audio from recorders placed around a region of the Bornean rainforest in Southeast Asia. Visitors can listen to live audio or skip back through the day’s recording, for example to listen to the dawn chorus.

Listen in on the Imperial College podcast

What’s inside?

We borrowed this image of the flux tower from Sarab Sethi’s site

The device records data in the field and uploads it to a central server continuously and robustly over long time-periods. And it was built for around $305.

Here’s all the code for the platform, on GitHub.

The 12V-to-5V micro USB converter to the power socket of the Anker USB hub, which is connected to Raspberry Pi.

The Imperial College London team behind the project has provided really good step-by-step photo instructions for anyone interested in the fine details.

Here’s the full set up in the field. The Raspberry Pi-powered brains of the kit are safely inside the green box

The recorders have been installed by Imperial College London researchers as part of the SAFE Project – one of the largest ecological experiments in the world.

Screenshot of the SAFE Project website

Dr Sarab Sethi designed the audio recorders with Dr Lorenzo Picinali. They wanted to quantify the changes in rainforest soundscape as land use changes, for example when forests are logged. Sarab is currently working on algorithms to analyse the gathered data with Dr Nick Jones from the Department of Mathematics.

The lovely cross-disciplinary research team based at Imperial College London

Let the creators of the project tell you more on the Imperial College London website.


jo hawkins avatar

The Imperial College London team behind the project has provided really good step-by-step photo instructions for anyone interested in the fine details.
the link here is incorrect i belive it should be pointing at

Brian avatar

Thanks. I just tried to click on it!

Michael avatar

So you folks think about ditching that SD card for at least HDD or SSD? Constant 24hr monitoring going to tear that thing up. Mine (Samsung 512GB UH1) didn’t even last month doing light programming, not even using the Pi for the projects but instead to programm PLC’s connected to it. I’d love to hear how you got the SD to last any longer than that being on 24/7 use. It great project, I built something similar but w/out solar..And I’m in the US so I’m only limited to dingy polluted woods on the East coast.. but I got to hear birds just fine, was even working on building my classes to define the bird the can hear. But eh, didnt have the resources to cross check species like that nor a database built to hold to birds chirps to readback to the user on what kind.. maybe you folks should build that on. Classes of species to almost instant pull-up on what animal and it’s specs based it’s roar or chirp? Engineering is fun isn’t it, I’m working on my BS now.

BENOIT avatar

do you know this project? https://birdnet.cornell.edu/ for instant bird’s calls identification

amel avatar


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