From: Lena Groeger, Wired
Published May 17, 2011 08:31 AM

Air Force’s New Target: Mojave Ground Squirrel

The Air Force is on the hunt for a new detector. It's gotta be rugged — able to withstand extreme temperatures, blistering 50-mph winds and barren desert conditions. But it's not meant to detect dangerous insurgents, powerful explosives or undercover spies. Its target is one big...bad...Mojave ground squirrel.


As well as all the other mammals and birds that dwell underground or fly through military areas. Bombs, fires and flying planes may not seem like the preferred backdrop for these desert fauna. But plenty of security measures and safety buffer zones mean that military lands are pretty sheltered from development pressures and habitat destruction. So, more than 300 endangered or threatened plant and animal species are content to call this "home."

And under the Endangered Species Act, the Department of Defense is required to maintain and protect that home (for the squirrels, that is). Keeping track of all these critters costs the military time, manpower and resources — not to mention thousands of dollars – that could go to, well, other activities. So the Air Force is looking for some help from acoustic technology, as the service announced in a recent call for research proposals.

The challenge is to create a sensor that could detect, distinguish and store hours and hours of animal sounds. Most animals make specific noises, danger calls or mating signals that could be used for identification.

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