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The first African Bioacoustics Community Conference 2018

In 2018 the very first African Bioacoustics Community conference was held in the spirit of promoting bioacoustics research and networking on the African continent. 
Hosted by the University of Cape Town's Centre for Statistics in Ecology, the Environment and Conservation and Sea Search Research and Conservation, in one of Africa's most beautiful cities, the first ABC conference was incredibly successful. From the 3rd to the 7th of December 2018, at the University of Cape Town, 130 attendees including 8 plenary presenters all came together to share knowledge and inspire. With 56 talks and 44 posters presented throughout the 4 days of the conference, there was no shortage of information to be shared!
From bats to crocodiles we covered it all!
We are so very grateful to the University of Cape Town who provided important seed funding, and to the Acoustical Society of America who provided local student support.
Plenary Speakers
Plenary Speakers

Prof Jérôme Sueur

Associate professor at the Muséum national d'histoire naturelle, Paris, France.

Plenary TalkAcoustic Monitoring of Tropical Trees

Workshop (7th Dec 2018)Ecoacoustics in a Nutshell


Prof Nicolas Mathevon

Professor at the University of Lyon, Saint-Etienne, France, and Senior Member of the Institut universitaire de France.

Plenary TalkCrocodilian Acoustic Communication

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Prof Christene Erbe

Professor at Curtain University, Perth, Western Australia, and Director of the Centre for Marine Science and Technology.

Plenary TalkThe Marine Soundscape and the Effects of Noise on Marine Life

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Prof David Jacobs

Professor at the University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa

Plenary TalkThe Role of Competition in Acoustic Signal Divergence in Bats


Dr Salvatore Cerchio

New England Aquarium, Boston, United States of America

Plenary Talk: A New Age of Discovery in the 21st Century: Using Passive Acoustics to Describe Whale Populations off the Coasts of Africa


Prof Marta Manser

Professor at the University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland, and Co-Director of the Kalahari Research Centre

Plenary Talk: Vocal Variation on Meerkats and other Mongoose Species


Dr Isabelle Charrier

Senior Researcher at the National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), Orsay, France

Plenary Talk: Recognition Systems and Social Structures in Pinnipeds


Dr Anna Bastian

Senior Lecturer and Evolutionary Ecologist at the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal, Durban, South Africa

Plenary Talk: The Function of Bat Calls

Special Sessions
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Prof Paul Cowley

Principal Scientist at the South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity (SAIAB), and Honorary Professor at Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa

Plenary Talk: Trials, Tribulations, Successes and Opportunities of Establishing a National Network of  Acoustic Receivers 

Conference Events

Evening Events
4th December 2018
Underwater Noise and Marine Life - Impacts, Policy, Where to next?


Our Underwater Noise evening was presented as a panel discussion evening including Natacha Aguilar de Soto and Kenneth Findlay discussing a film feature called 'Becoming Visible: the Sound of Oil' by J. Solomon. It also included invited participation from Government representatives, Industry Representatives Scientists and NGO's.

6th December 2018

Communicating about Communication

(and other bioacoustic research)

Science Communication Networking Event:


The first African Bioacoustics Community conference showcased research conducted on the African continent by local and international scientists. But how do we go beyond sharing our research within the academic sphere?  To truly develop a network of people interested in this research field, we need to grow and promote our research in the public psyche. Through achieving this we can inspire citizen scientists to collect data or policymakers to acknowledge acoustic impacts.

How do we, as bioacoustic scientists, voice our discoveries and share the importance of our findings?

Our Science Communication event focused on bridging the gap between the scientific community and the general public. The event featured talks by local science communicator Pavs Pillay, scientific journalist Wiida Fourie-Basson, specialist cameraman and scientist Claudio Velasques-Rojas, and photographer and small business owner Steve Benjamin.

5th December 2018
Focused Meeting: Using scientific understanding to inform and improve real-time passive acoustic mitigation


This meeting, presented by Alexa Prinsloo, covered the intricacies of real-time mitigation using PAM, with a focus on the technical aspects and some questions and observations from field operators. There was a free flow of ideas from attendees as they uncovered and discussed the current limitations and potential improvements that can realistically be made to passive acoustic monitoring to ensure its use as an effective mitigation tool.

A more detailed description of the workshop can be found here.


7th December 2018

Workshop: Ecoacoustics in a nutshell

led by Prof Jérôme Sueur

This one-day workshop introduced the main methods for running eco-acoustic research, from funny fieldwork to fancy R script writing. The topics discussed were: working hypotheses, sampling design, recording techniques, acoustic indices, pattern recognition, and statistical analyses. The workshop was very well received and proved insightful to many attendees.

7th December 2018

Workshop: Introduction to Machine Learning

led by Emmanuel Dufourq


Progress in machine learning has skyrocketed over the recent years along with a vast number of successful applications. Recognizing objects in images, sounds in audio, or detecting features of interest in video has all become even more possible. Over the last 5 years, we have observed the use of deep learning methods which have enabled practitioners and researchers to achieve state-of-the-art performance in various fields. With new techniques being proposed at such a rapid pace and the various subtle complexities involved, machine learning often appears to be a challenging topic to learn. The workshop helped to demystify the concepts behind machine learning and provide participants with a general understanding of the topic to enable them to apply machine learning to their projects. It was a productive time of learning new techniques and their application to already established projects expanding the skill sets of researchers who were otherwise unfamiliar with the concept.

8th December 2018
Seal Snorkeling in Hout Bay, Cape Town
Animal Ocean


Seal Snorkeling is a unique, intimate wildlife experience in Cape Town. This activity was an excellent opportunity for conference attendees to get up close and personal with free-swimming, wild Cape Fur seals. December is an active and vocal time for the 5000 plus fur seals found at the Duiker Island colony in Hout Bay. Several conference attendees were able to join the Animal Ocean team on a special trip to witness these incredible creatures in their natural environment. The outing was a lot of fun and those that attended thoroughly enjoyed immersing themselves in a unique Cape Town experience.

Conference Events

Student Sponsorships


We were very grateful for the financial support of the Acoustical Society of America who sponsored 11 students to attend the first ABC conference.

Here are some testimonials:

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Oluwadunsin Adekola

"My experience at African Bioacoustics Community (ABC) conference was amazing... The knowledge gained in this conference would be of immersed advantage in my present and future research works. The wonderful tips illustrated on how to carry out acoustics studies were incredible. In addition, the conference opened my eye to other user-friendly statistical packages... I really appreciate ABC and Acoustical Society of America (ASA) who provided sponsorship to attend this enjoyable and educative conference."

Bridget James

"Attending the first African bioacoustics community conference was a wonderful experience. All the talks were interesting and it was amazing to see the broad range of study species and locations where acoustic research is being conducted... I found it particularly valuable to be able to see the various research methodologies used in these studies as I move forward with my own studies. I am grateful to ASA for allowing me the opportunity to attend such an interesting conference. On the whole, I think the conference was a huge success and a wonderful opportunity to engage with pre-eminent bioacousticians in this field of research."

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Mohammed Kajee

"The opportunity to attend the African Bioacoustics Community conference was an incredible professional opportunity for me... I was deeply grateful for the opportunity to build networks and relationships with experts from around the world. The conference also afforded me the opportunity to gain insight into research areas that interest me and the current state of knowledge within the field. I also attended a workshop on machine learning, which resulted in me formally registering for an online course with Stanford University to further develop this skill... I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Acoustical Society of America for funding my attendance to this conference. I am grateful for your support."

Looking for more?

All 11 student testimonials can be read here.


Blog Mentions

Dr John Measey, along with several students affiliated with his lab located at Stellenbosch University, presented 2 posters and gave 3 presentations at the first African Bioacoustics Community Conference. You can read about the experience on his lab blog, Measey Labs, here.

Oceans Not Oil, a South African organisation that speaks out against offshore oil and gas development, wrote about our Impacts of Ocean Noise evening hosted at the ABC 2018. The event involved the screening of the Becoming Visible film, by Janet Solomon, and a panel discussion around issues raised by the film. You can read more here.

Blog Mentions


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