History of the Macaulay Library

Arthur Allen and toad

Documenting bird behavior has been a central goal of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology since its inception. It was a major focus of the Lab's founders and, from the earliest days, played a crucial role in its outreach and educational missions.

Naturally, technological abilities have evolved dramatically over the last century. The Lab has been a key agent in adopting and promoting, and in many cases developing, new technologies for the documentation of animal behavior and natural history.

The culmination of this long history is the current Macaulay Library: a digital archive accessible to the public and containing the world's largest collection of animal sounds as well as a rapidly growing video library of animal behavior.

We invite you to explore the timeline above to learn how the Macaulay Library came to be, and its central role in shaping the evolution of animal behavior study.

The Starting Point

Louis Agassiz Fuertes
Louis Agassiz Fuertes' self portrait

The earliest efforts to document avian behavior at Cornell were typified by the superb paintings of birds by Louis Agassiz Fuertes; these works captivated both scientist and private citizen alike. Agassiz's friend and Cornell colleague, Arthur Augustus Allen, held a similar desire to understand and document the complex lives of birds, but he embraced new technological advances as faster and more comprehensive mechanisms to record his observations.

Arthur Augustus Allen

"Doc" Allen, as he was affectionately known, completed his PhD on Red-winged Blackbird ecology and behavior in 1911, and promptly began teaching ornithology courses at Cornell. In 1915, he became the first Assistant Professor of Ornithology in the United States. Doc Allen was both a superb avian naturalist, and he played a pivotal role in the development of North American ornithology.

Doc Allen's was also an excellent mentor, and many of his undergraduate and graduate students became professional ornithologists who shaped the evolving discipline into a modern science, both nationally and worldwide.

Early Milestones

Peter Paul Kellogg and Albert R. Brand examining recording equipment

The first half of the Twentieth Century was a period of exciting growth and innovation for the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. It was during this period that the very first recordings of wild birds were made, in part to demonstrate a new technology – motion-picture film with synchronized sound – and this event was the birth of the Cornell Library of Natural Sounds. Along with others, including his friend and graduate student Peter Paul Kellogg, Doc Allen developed techniques and key technologies for recording birds that are still used today. Highlights from this period include:

  • 1929: Allen and Kellogg made the very first recordings of wild birds at an Ithaca city park just down the hill from Cornell.
  • Allen’s graduate student Albert R. Brand and Cornell undergraduate M. Peter Keane developed recording equipment for use in the field. Within two years they had successfully recorded more than 40 species of birds.
  • 1931: Using World War I parabola molds from the Cornell Physics Department, Peter Keane and True McLean (a Cornell professor in Electrical Engineering) designed and built a parabolic reflector for field recordings of bird songs.
  • 1932: Arthur Allen and Paul Kellogg conducted the very first behavioral investigation using film and sound (a study of Ruffed Grouse display behavior).
  • 1930s: The Cornell Lab of Ornithology mounted two major cross-country recording expeditions to record the sounds and behaviors of various North American bird species nearing the brink of extinction – among them the Ivory-billed Woodpecker. These expeditions used a “state of the art” recording system so bulky and heavy that it had to be hauled in a panel truck or, when the roads ran out, in a mule-drawn wagon.
  • 1940s: Brand produced “American Bird Songs”, an extensive bird song field guide album. Commercial sales of phonograph records (and later tapes or CD’s) of bird sounds remained a key source of income for the Lab of Ornithology well into the 1980s.



Cinematic and Disc Recordings

In the spring of 1929, Peter Paul Kellogg, a graduate student of Allen's fascinated by electrical sound equipment, became an instructor in ornithology at Cornell. That May, Fox-Case Movietone Corporation asked Allen for help recording a singing wild bird to demonstrate a new technology, motion-picture film with synchronized sound. Allen agreed to lend a hand. On May 18, Allen, Kellogg, and the Movietone crew spent the morning in an Ithaca park, recording a Song Sparrow, a House Wren, and a Rose-breasted Grosbeak. The results were disappointing and the recording equipment was horrifically expensive and heavy, but the obvious possibilities were tantalizing to Allen and his colleagues.

Albert R. Brand in the field

That autumn Albert R. Brand, who had quit his job as a broker on the New York Stock Exchange in 1928, came to Cornell to study ornithology under Doc Allen. Brand was particularly interested in sound recording and, having the financial wherewithal, he began buying, testing, and modifying recording equipment. A Cornell undergraduate, M. Peter Keane, volunteered to assist him.

At the time, motion-picture sound film was the best medium for recording sounds, so Brand and Keane focused on sound cinematography. Within two years they had successfully recorded more than 40 species of birds. At the 1931 annual meeting of the American Ornithologists' Union (A.O.U.), the outstanding contribution was doubtless Brand's Preliminary Report of a New Method for Recording Bird Songs according to the A.O.U. secretary. Even so, because of the limitations of the equipment, the sound quality for recordings of bird sounds remained poor.

Cornell undergraduate M. Peter Keane with amplifier and film sound recorder inside the sound truck.

Over the next winter, three local electrical engineers, including True McLean, a Cornell professor in the Electrical Engineering Department, redesigned and rebuilt the equipment. Peter Keane suggested that a parabolic reflector would intensify the signal picked up by their microphone. (Keane said he got the idea during a visit to Radio City Music Hall, then under construction, where parabolic reflectors were used to record voices of individual singers.) The Cornell Physics Department just happened to have some World War I parabola molds in attic storage--originally made for experiments in the detection of approaching enemy aircraft--and the reflector was soon built.

Preparing to record picture and sound of Ruffed Grouse drumming

In 1932, Arthur Allen and Paul Kellogg used these tools to undertake the first behavioral investigation using film and sound. Their subject was the Ruffed Grouse. Naturalists had argued for a century and a half about how the male grouse made his drumming noise. They knew that the bird stood on a log in the woods and fanned his wings while drumming, slowly at first, and then accelerating to a whir for the finale. But those who had studied the performance debated whether the cock's wings beat against each other, or his sides, or the log he perched on, or just the air. Filming from a blind at very close range, Allen took motion pictures that demonstrated beyond a shadow of a doubt that the grouse drummed on air and nothing else. At the same time, Paul Kellogg and Peter Keane recorded the sounds of the drumming grouse. Kellogg, in charge of the microphone, spent a night camouflaged in a sleeping bag beside the "drumming log," waiting for the grouse to begin his dawn performance. Keane was stationed some distance away in the panel truck, operating the recording equipment. Once Allen and company had recorded both sound and pictures, they combined them to make their film. The film was presented along with a paper at the 1932 meeting of the A.O.U.

The truck that carried early recording equipment

This new recording system was greatly improved, but it was still so bulky and heavy that it had to be hauled around in a panel truck or, when the roads ran out, in a mule-drawn wagon. Nonetheless, in the 1930s the Laboratory of Ornithology, with financial support from Albert Brand and other sources, mounted two major cross-country recording and film/photography expeditions to attempt to record the sounds, appearance, and behaviors of various North American bird species that seemed to be nearing extinction--among them the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, Trumpeter Swan, and California Condor.

Audio guide record albums published in the late 1930s

These products reflected a long history of public outreach encouraged by Allen. At the same time that Allen made the Lab of Ornithology a center for academic study, field research, technological innovation, and the training of professional ornithologists, he also insisted that it promote bird conservation and encourage a wider public interest in birds. His highly entertaining accounts of Lab of Ornithology recording expeditions in National Geographic Magazine (June 1937) were widely read and brought the Lab worldwide visibility and recognition.

Albert R. Brand examining the groove in a phonograph disc recording

In the late 1930s, Brand began production of an extensive bird song field guide album for the public, American Bird Songs, which was released just after the U.S. joined World War II. One consequence of this mammoth production was the realization that record discs might provide greater archive longevity than the highly volatile nitrocellulose movie film. This thought received reinforcement during World War II when Allen, Kellogg, and colleagues were sent to Panama by the U.S. Army to record jungle sounds as part of military initiatives to protect the Canal Zone. The high vulnerability of nitrocellulose film to tropical atmospheric conditions made recording direct-to-disc the only viable strategy, and on return to Cornell, this medium became the standard format for original recordings, archival storage, and commercial products. The commercial sales of phonograph records of bird sounds went on to become a key source of income for the Lab of Ornithology well into the 1980s.

Magnetic Tape Milestones

Peter Paul Kellogg recording with a Magnemite 510E

Soon after World War II, magnetic tape technology arrived on the scene and opened the door to development of an easily portable recording system. Peter Paul Kellogg helped design the first lightweight tape recorder built in North America, which weighed less than 20 pounds and greatly enhanced the ability to record birds and other animals in the field. Highlights from this period include:

  • 1957: Opening of the Lyman K. Stuart Observatory facility at Sapsucker Woods, with dedicated space for the Library of Natural Sounds (LNS). Byrl Kellogg, a professional librarian, was recruited for the monumental task of cataloging and organizing the growing collection.
  • Doc Allen and later Peter Paul Kellogg hosted a local radio show, “Know Your Birds”, discussing birds, their natural history, and vocalizations. This program remained on the air until the mid-1980s.
  • 1950s & 1960s: Bolstered by the new facilities and a growing core of research and volunteer recordists, LNS grew and also expanded its geographic scope to become a truly international sound archive. During this period the Lab also produced and published the first full guide to the songs of North American birds, as well as a guide to the sounds of eastern North American frogs and toads.
  • The mid-60s brought change to the Library of Natural Sounds. In 1964 both Arthur Allen and Byrl Kellogg passed away, and in 1966 Peter Paul Kellogg retired. During the transition years following the loss of these pioneers, activity in the sound collections slowed. However, the collaborators and students they'd inspired and encouraged already were beginning to fill the void.



The Early Magnetic Tape Era

Disc archiving enjoyed only a short life at the Lab of Ornithology when it was supplanted by the magnetic tape technology developed in Germany during World War II. Magnetic tape recording opened the door to development of an easily portable recording system and provided capability for instantaneous playback of a bird's voice for identification and experimental investigations. Peter Paul Kellogg helped design the first lightweight tape recorder built in North America, the Amplifier Corp. of America's Magnemite recorder. It weighed less than 20 pounds; it went into commercial production in 1951 and greatly expanded options for field recordists. As a result, the Library of Natural Sounds (as it was then known) began a major period of growth.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology view from the pond in the late 1950s

Byrl Kellogg, a professional librarian, was recruited for the monumental task of cataloging and organizing the growing collection. Updating as well the goal of public outreach, both Doc Allen and later Peter Paul Kellogg hosted a local radio show, Know Your Birds, discussing birds, their natural history, and vocalizations, a program that remained on the air until the mid-1980s. Doc Allen retired from teaching in 1953, but continued to promote the development of ornithology at Cornell. The result was the designation of the Lab of Ornithology as an independent department of the University in 1955, and the completion of the new Lyman K. Stuart Observatory ornithology facility at Sapsucker Woods in 1957. The Library of Natural Sounds, with dedicated space in the new facility and bolstered by a growing core of research and volunteer recordists, commenced a period of growth that would transition it from a collection of North American bird recordings to an international sound archive.

In 1958, Robert C. Stein, then a graduate student of Kellogg, began research that would use differences in song to demonstrate for the first time that the species then known as Traill's Flycatcher Empidonax traillii was comprised of two essentially morphologically identical birds that were distinct species, the Willow Flycatcher Empidonax traillii and the Alder Flycatcher E. alnorum. William Dilger studied the role of song as an isolating mechanism among Hylocichla and Catharus thrushes. Recordings of the birds in Kenya and other parts of eastern Africa were collected by Myles E. W. North, while Donald and Marian McChesney recorded in Africa and Europe. L. Irby Davis amassed a remarkable collection of Mexican material. Drawing material from the collection and carrying out expeditions to fill gaps, the Lab produced and published the first full guide to the songs of North American birds, as well as a guide to the sounds of eastern North American frogs and toads. Also at this time, an Ithaca teenager by the name of Randolph Little became involved with the Lab, helping to assemble sounds for the first Peterson Series bird sound guides published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

The mid-60s would bring change to the Library of Natural Sounds. In 1964 Arthur Allen died. Later that year Byrl Kellogg also passed away. Her legacy was a superb catalog of the collection, as well as catalogs of original recorded discs and sound films. In 1966, Peter Paul Kellogg retired from Cornell University. During the transition years following the loss of Allen and the retirement of Kellogg and original organizers, activity in the sound collections slowed. However, the collaborators and students they'd inspired and encouraged were already filling the void. Jennifer Horne masterfully edited the African collection of Myles E. W. North, and L. Virginia Engelhard, then supervisor of the Library of Natural Sounds, incorporated it into the collection. Eugene Morton, conducting research in Panama, added new recordings to the archive. Technical and equipment support was provided for Sheldon Severinghaus in Taiwan and Theodore Cronin in Nepal, resulting in major additions of recordings from those regions.

Expansion Milestones

James L. Gulledge

The latter decades of the Twentieth Century were a period of exponential growth for the Library of Natural Sounds (LNS) as it expanded from about 15,000 recordings to over 140,000. Accordingly, LNS became a world leader in research on the vocalizations of birds and other animals. Highlights from this dynamic era include:

  • 1974: Dr. James L. Gulledge was appointed as Director and Curator of LNS. He ushered in a renaissance for LNS by securing key outside funding (including grants from the National Science Foundation), bringing on new staff with specialized skills, engaging and supporting field recordists, and overseeing seven successive commercial productions.
  • The 1970’s and 1980’s saw significant expansion of the LNS collection of neotropical birds, in part through partnerships with legendary ornithologists Paul Schwartz and Theodore "Ted" A. Parker III, among others. Parker, in particular, set out to create "the best collection of Neotropical bird sounds" anywhere. Parker did what he set out to do: at the time of his untimely death in a plane crash in 1993, he had made more than 15,000 recordings of over 1,600 species of birds.
  • 1984: LNS conducted its first sound recording course, taught by LNS Assistant Curator Greg Budney in Machias, Maine. This innovative program, which sought to provide advanced training in field sound recording of animals, continues to be taught today and has trained hundreds of highly-qualified field recordists from across the globe.
  • 1987: Gulledge retired and was replaced by former Assistant Curator Budney, who brings on Robert Grotke, a highly respected sound engineer. Under the careful oversight of Budney and Grotke, the LNS collection grew to over 140,000 recordings, the Sound Recording Workshop prospered, a diverse set of commercial and wildlife management productions was completed, and LNS generally evolved to become the world's greatest archive of animal sounds.



Expanding the Mission

James L. Gulledge

In 1974, Dr. James L. Gulledge joined the staff of the Laboratory of Ornithology as director and curator of the Library of Natural Sounds (LNS). By then, LNS held approximately 15,000 recordings but was still growing at a rate far below what Gulledge viewed as its potential. He ushered in a renaissance for LNS and under his leadership LNS developed exponentially. He secured outside funding, brought on new staff, sought out those making field recordings, and worked with others to develop necessary recording skills. He also oversaw seven successive commercial productions culminating with Warblers of North America by Donald J. Borror and William W. H. Gunn, a comprehensive guide to the vocalizations of North American warblers.

Several instrumental steps were taken by Gulledge to turn LNS from a curiosity into a biological research resource. At the time, Gulledge and assistant Andrea Priori comprised the entire staff of LNS. One of his first steps was to seek out technical expertise for maintaining and upgrading the LNS studio facilities. He recruited David Wickstrom, a capable local audio engineer, whose skills rejuvenated the aging equipment and permitted archival of the recordings that Gulledge was soliciting from field researchers worldwide. To spur the process, Gulledge and Priori accepted tropical recordist Paul Schwartz's invitation to visit Venezuela and copy over 5,000 recordings of neotropical birds for the LNS archive. Working day and night, they completed this challenging task in only two weeks, a process that also included photographing thousands of Schwartz's hand-written data forms as photocopying equipment was not available in Venezuela at that time.

The LNS archival format in this period remained reel-to-reel magnetic tape. Gulledge recognized that the workhorse recording and archival equipment of the 1960s, though serviceable, would require replacement and more machines were required to handle the amount of un-archived recordings he was actively recruiting. In 1978, Gulledge wrote the first of what would be several National Science Foundation (NSF) proposals for supporting the curatorial operations of LNS. With NSF support, LNS acquired a battery of new studio recorders and instituted a plan for copying recordings that had been submitted for archival. At the same time, Gulledge redesigned LNS's longhand data form into a check-off form based on keyword fields to encourage recordists to provide more data and began the process of entering text data into a computerized database

Theodore A. Parker III, recording in the field

Around this same time one of the more fortuitous events to occur in the history of LNS took place. Gulledge began corresponding with Theodore "Ted" A. Parker, III. In early correspondence, Parker promised to create "the best collection of Neotropical bird sounds" anywhere. Gulledge recognized the skill and drive in Parker and provided him with equipment, tape, and encouragement (though it would soon become apparent that a minimal amount of the latter was required). Building upon the contributions of others such as Paul A. Schwartz, Parker did what he set out to do. At the time of his untimely death in a plane crash in 1993, Ted Parker alone made more than 15,000 recordings of over 1,600 species of birds. The contact and success with Parker spawned other connections. Cooperative links with field workers from Cornell and other institutions in North America as well as other parts of the world were established. As a result, significant new material from South America, Africa, Asia, and North America flowed into the collection and continues to do so today.

Mary Katz recording with Greg Budney at the 1987 Sound Recording Course

In 1984 Gulledge received a phone call from Charles D. Duncan, director of the recently developed Institute for Field Ornithology (IFO) at the University of Maine at Machias. Duncan was interested in having LNS conduct a sound recording course at the IFO. Gulledge offered the possibility of having his assistant curator, Greg Budney, do so. That year the first Natural Sound Recording Course was conducted in Machias, Maine. In 1987, at the suggestion of Ted Parker, Budney invited Randolph Little (a former assistant to Kellogg when a Cornell student and at this time on the staff at Bell Labs) to be an instructor at a sound recording course in Ithaca. This innovative program sought to provide advanced training in field sound recording of animals, and has since graduated hundreds of highly-qualified field recordists. Some have gone on to become research scientists specializing in some aspect of animal sound communication. Others now record animal sounds as an avocation. Many continue to send new high quality recordings to the Library from throughout the world.

James L. Gulledge and Greg Budney (with binoculars) recording in Sapsucker Woods
Robert Grotke at the audio engineer's bench

Jim Gulledge retired in 1987 as director/curator of LNS and was replaced by former Assistant Curator Greg Budney. Budney had joined LNS fresh out of college in 1980, and had soon joined Ted Parker on an epochal recording expedition to South America. By the time he became Curator, Budney had become a superb animal recordist with an extensive knowledge of birds and their vocal behavior. David Wickstrom also left LNS shortly after Gulledge retired, and was replaced by Robert Grotke, a highly respected sound engineer who had worked with LNS cutting LP master discs for several prior productions. Grotke arrived with an outstanding grasp of current and new audio technologies, and he and Budney worked together to establish and then maintain the highest standards of sound recording and archival. Under Budney and Grotke's careful oversight, the LNS collection grew to over 140,000 recordings, the Sound Recording Workshop prospered, a diverse set of commercial and wildlife management productions was completed, and LNS became acknowledged as the world's greatest animal sound collection.

Digital Milestones

Jack Bradbury recording in the field

The new millennium brought significant changes to the entire Cornell Lab of Ornithology, including the Library of Natural Sounds, as the lab and LNS embraced the digital age and developing new technologies. These recent changes have included the following:

  • A new building. In 2003 the Lab of Ornithology moved into its new home at Sapsucker Woods: the Imogene Powers Johnson Center for Birds and Biodiversity. This new facility includes generous space for the Library of Natural Sounds, with state-of-the-art studios, advanced fiber-optic connectivity, spacious offices, and an atmospherically controlled deep archive for the sound collection.
  • A new name. Linda and William (Bill) Macaulay donated a significant campaign contribution to fund the new LNS facility, and Linda herself has become one of the more productive and talented contributors to the sound collection. In honor of their many contributions, LNS was renamed as the Linda and William Macaulay Library, and the sound recording unit became the Linda and William Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds. Linda’s efforts to raise public awareness about birds and ornithology were further recognized in 2010, when she was presented with the prestigious Arthur A. Allen Award for Outstanding Service.
  • A new director. In 1999, Dr. Jack Bradbury, widely regarded as an expert in animal communication, was named the new Director of the Macaulay Library and also the first Robert G. Engel Professor of Ornithology. Bradbury presided over a significant expansion of the Macaulay Library’s philosophy and mission to meet the challenges and opportunities of the digital era. In 2009 Bradbury retired, and Dr. Mike Webster became the new Director of the Macaulay Library to build on the foundation laid down by his predecessors.
  • A new philosophy. A critical change ushered in by Bradbury, with the help of Budney and Grotke, was to go digital. This involved moving the entire sound archive, all search and retrieval functions, and any client distribution processes, into a digital environment. Original analog recordings were digitized and archived at the high-resolution standard of 96 kHz, 24 bits, and lower-resolution versions of the recordings were made freely available over the Internet.
  • An expanded mission. A second significant initiative, begun in 2001, was expansion of the Macaulay Library’s mission to include video recordings of animal behavior. This expansion of the archive to include video will allow the Macaulay Library to provide ever more useful materials to researcher, educators, conservationists, and others. In a way, this addition of a video archive returns the Macaulay Library to its historical roots, when both visual and audio components were documented on movie film.



The Digital Era

The Lab of Ornithology had embarked during 1990-2000 in a very successful effort to enlist endowments for senior staff. In 1997, Lab Director John Fitzpatrick announced an endowment for the director of the Macaulay Library that honored the late Robert G. Engel, a long-time supporter of LNS and member of the Lab's Board of Trustees. Dr. Jack Bradbury, then a faculty member and Associate Dean of Natural Sciences at the University of California, San Diego, was selected in 1999 as the first occupant of this post. Bradbury had extensive research experience with the communication signals of birds, bats, and other mammals, and had co-authored a textbook on animal communication with wife and fellow scientist Dr. Sandra Vehrencamp.

Since the advent of compact disc audio, Budney and Grotke had resisted converting the archive to CD, feeling that the 44.1 kHz 16-bit standard was insufficient for the archival of many wildlife sounds. Prior to arrival, Bradbury conferred with Budney and Grotke and all agreed that it was time to move the entire LNS sound archive, all search and retrieval functions, and any client distribution processes into a digital environment. They thus sought and obtained a sizeable NSF grant to purchase the equipment necessary for the analog-to-digital conversion of the archive. The deep archive storage format would use a new technology, DVD discs on which all sound recordings would be stored after sampling the analog originals at 96 kHz and 24 bits. Multiple copies would be generated and stored both on and off site, and down-sampled versions would be made available over the Internet through a giant hard-disk farm. The NSF major equipment grant was complemented by a parallel award from the Andrew Mellon Foundation to cover the salaries of the LNS staff required for digitization, and by a generous gift by the EMC Corporation of an enterprise storage system for Internet distribution. The digital conversion program began early in 2000.

Linda and William Macaulay

Also in 2000, the Lab of Ornithology launched an ambitious campaign to raise $34M for a new building. This included generous space for the Library of Natural Sounds including custom-built studios, advanced fiber-optic connectivity, spacious offices, and an atmospherically controlled deep archive for the sound collection. Linda and William (Bill) Macaulay donated a significant campaign contribution to fund the new LNS facility. Encouraged by Ted Parker and Budney, Linda had taken the Sound Recording Course some years earlier, and then gone on to become one of the more productive and talented contributors to the sound collection. In honor of their many contributions to LNS, the overall archival facility was named the Linda and William Macaulay Library, and the sound recording unit became the Linda and William Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds. The new building was completed and occupied early in 2003.

CLO in 2010
Diane Tessaglia-Hymes
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology view from the pond in 2010

Upon moving into its splendid new facility, the Macaulay Library (ML) began a rapid phase of expansion. Several grants from the Office of Naval Research funded the hiring of additional staff, studio equipment, and archival storage to begin digital archival of the thousands of marine recordings acquired over the last three decades. This project is ongoing at the current time and provides an excellent interfacing of activities between ML and the cetacean research programs of the Bioacoustics Research Program at the Lab.

The Macaulay Library video editing rack

A second significant initiative begun in 2001 was the expansion of the archive to include video recordings of animal behavior. Many displays of birds consist of both sound and visual components, and the current sound collection documents only the audio modality. In a way, the addition of a video archive returns the Macaulay Library to its historical roots when both visual and audio components were documented on movie film. The video expansion has been funded by grants from the Office of Naval Research (particularly the NOPP program), generous individual gifts from members of the Lab's Board of Trustees, and by corporate partnerships with Sony, Canon, Apple Computer, Exabyte, EMC, and Videobank. Marc Dantzker was appointed the first ML Curator of Visual Media, and brought to his job a graduate education in animal behavior, extensive experience as a nature photographer, (both stills and video), and advanced expertise in software and interface programming. In a very short period, Dantzker assembled a highly qualified team of technicians, engineers, and video archivists, recruiting high quality videos from several of the best nature videographers in the country, establishing crucial industry partnerships, and overseeing a series of video productions.

The Macaulay Library storage area network

The digitization of the sound and video archives constitutes only one piece of the larger task of making the Macaulay Library digitally accessible. Software tools for searching and finding items in the collection had to be created. Mechanisms for Internet browsing and the retrieval of archive specimens were also required, and these interfaces had to meet the needs of the many different users of the archive, ranging from young students and their teachers to advanced research scientists and commercial media producers.

During his tenure, former director Gulledge had significantly increased the scope of metadata recorded when each sound recording was archived. These metadata had been stored in a flat database could not meet the search and retrieval demands of the modern Internet user. With funds from the Office of Naval Research and the National Science Foundation, ML has now built a new relational data model into which the older data can be easily ported, but that is more compatible with Internet retrieval and an overall model being developed and pooled across all units at the Lab of Ornithology. A grant submitted by ML director Bradbury and Binghamton University faculty Anne Clark allowed the Lab to host two consecutive international meetings to develop a consensus international metadata standard for the field of animal behavior. And a substantial award from NSF supports the building of interfaces for students and teachers that will allow ML to become a part of the National Science Digital Library.

In 2010, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology further recognized the outstanding contributions of Linda Macaulay by presenting her with the prestigious Arthur A. Allen Award for Outstanding Service to Ornithology to Linda Macaulay. Early in her career, Linda had been attracted to sound recording by Ted Parker and Greg Budney, and by 2010 had contributed 5,974 recordings of 2,668 species from 50 countries to the library that now bears her name. The Allen Award is the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s highest honor, and is presented to recognize those who have helped raise public awareness about birds and ornithology. Linda’s passion for birds and ornithology, tireless work in the field, and dedication to building an unparalleled audio archive, all combined to make her an ideal recipient for the award.

Today

Starting with the pioneering efforts of Doc Allen and Peter Kellogg, and thanks to the innovation and dedication of staff and volunteers over the past several decades, the Macaulay Library has grown to become one of the world’s preeminent scientific research collections. The dawning of the “information age” brings with it significant potential, but also significant challenges, as we face to meet our mission. Here are some of the goals we have set for our immediate future:

  • Grow the collection. Growth of the audio and video collections will continue at a global scale, primarily through partnerships with professional and citizen scientists that will further expand our network of recordists. We will empower this network by training and supporting these recordists, particularly in developing areas of the globe.
  • Access. As the Macaulay Library archive continues to expand, a growing challenge is the ability to access and use the information in it. We will develop ever-more sophisticated tools to allow users to explore the collection and find the information and assets they need for research, education and conservation.
  • Research and training. We will continue to provide sound recording and analysis workshops across the globe, particularly in developing countries, to help build capacity for science and conservation. We also look forward to collaborating with scientists and other scientific archives to help others use our specimens for sophisticated research with real-world impact.
  • Sustainability. Finally, we will embrace developing new technologies and best practices to facilitate the ability of researchers to archive their own materials, and also to ensure the security of those assets for use by future generations.
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