Over the past year, the CETI team leaders and researchers took great strides towards our mission to listen to and translate whale communication. We’re excited to share our progress so far and bring everyone along on this journey with us.
Listening in Progress
After designing, engineering and building our “Core Whale Listening Stations” – the most advanced animal communication monitoring system ever made, capable of capturing massive amounts of data for AI – we installed a pilot station off the coast of Dominica for initial testing. The system is now in the final stages of updates and will be fully installed this Fall/Winter. Meanwhile, CETI’s flagship sailing vessel, CETI-1, along with two other research vessels, are in operation in Dominica conducting ongoing research via CETI’s custom-built bio-inspired robotic tags (designed to attach gently using suction cups) and mobile whale recording units.
Following the Roadmap
On the scientific front, we’ve taken major strides in the quest to decipher whale and nonhuman communication, powered by an interdisciplinary science team which has grown to over 25 world-leading researchers and practitioners. Our overarching scientific roadmap (Towards Understanding the Communication in Sperm Whales) was published in 2022 in the Cell journal iScience – a leading interdisciplinary open-access journal of research across the life, physical, and earth sciences. We also have five other scientific papers that are either under scientific review or about to be submitted for publication. Below are two papers that have pre-prints currently available:
- A Theory of Unsupervised Translation Motivated by Understanding Animal Communication: This paper describes how aspects of unsupervised machine translation will be useful to deciphering whale communication. It shows that if whale language is more complex, unsupervised machine translation techniques will be more effective in its translation capacity.
- Approaching an unknown communication system by latent space exploration and causal inference: This is one of the first papers that applies formal linguistic techniques to animal behavior.
Building Community in Dominica
CETI’s partnership with government and society in Dominica is vibrant and growing, with a field station up and running and plans in development to build a permanent CETI Laboratory in partnership with the Government of Dominica. We have also made six full-time hires in Dominica and completed the first year of the Dominica Marine Conservation Fellowship, a 10-month training program for young people in Dominica interested in marine science, with a particular focus on young women. We co-created the program’s custom curriculum with National Geographic and it includes nine modules — on marine science, scientific research/techniques, water and vessel skills, storytelling and leadership, among other topics. Fellows are also able to participate in our at-sea research work and various other opportunities through CETI and the National Geographic Society.
CETI’s progress has attracted interest and resources from tech giants such as Amazon Web Services and Google Research. CETI received its first major award, Amazon Web Services’ Go Faster Go Further Award, for its potential “to improve the world with the help of cloud technology.” CETI has also been accepted into AWS’s Open Data Program where it will provide open source data to the international community to support additional research and collaboration. CETI also has partnerships with both Google Research and Microsoft Research, and staff members from these companies are volunteering on the CETI team.
We’ve continued our partnership with the National Geographic Society, where CETI is integrated across the four major pillars of National Geographic Society: Science, storytelling, local capacity development/education and research. In April 2022, CETI co-led a four-day Photo Camp with National Geographic in Dominica where twenty youths from across Dominica honed their skills in photography and storytelling. This included the participation of five National Geographic Explorers - see local coverage in Dominica News Online.
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Thank you for being on this journey with us!
With deep whale breaths,
Founder & Lead