“As soon as the heat maps began to come out, everybody recognized this is a game changer in how we look at animal populations and their movement”
On a warm morning not long ago on the shore of a small prairie lake outside this state capital, Bob Martinka trained his spotting scope on a towering cottonwood tree heavy with blue heron nests. He counted a dozen of the tall, graceful birds and got out his smartphone, not to make a call but to type the number of birds and the species into an app that sent the information to researchers in New York.
Mr. Martinka, a retired state wildlife biologist and an avid bird-watcher, is part of the global ornithological network eBird. Several times a week he heads into the mountains to scan lakes, grasslands, even the local dump, and then reports his sightings to theCornell Lab of Ornithology, a nonprofit organization based at Cornell University.
“I see rare gulls at the dump quite frequently,” Mr. Martinka said, scanning a giant mound of bird-covered trash.
Tens of thousands of birders are now what the lab calls “biological sensors,” turning their sightings into digital data by reporting where, when and how many of which species they see. Mr. Martinka’s sighting of a dozen herons is a tiny bit of information, but such bits, gathered in the millions, provide scientists with a very big picture: perhaps the first crowdsourced, real-time view of bird populations around the world.
Birds are notoriously hard to count. While stationary sensors can measure things like carbon dioxide levels and highway traffic, it takes people to note the type and number of birds in an area. Until the advent of eBird, which began collecting daily global data in 2002, so-called one-day counts were the only method.
While counts like the Audubon Christmas Bird Count and the Breeding Bird Survey bring a lot of people together on one day to make bird observations across the country, and are scientifically valuable, they are different because they don’t provide year-round data.
And eBird’s daily view of bird movements has yielded a vast increase in data — and a revelation for scientists. The most informative product is what scientists call a heat map: a striking image of the bird sightings represented in various shades of orange according to their density, moving through space and time across black maps. Now, more than 300 species have a heat map of their own.
The Latest on: eBird
UMass Amherst Computer Scientist Awarded Grant to Improve Citizen Science, Big Data Analysis
on April 19, 2018 at 8:14 am
One area he plans to address is related to what he calls “the explosion of data” coming from citizen science projects such as eBird. Sheldon has collaborated with eBird scientists, who collect observations from birdwatchers across the globe ... […]
on April 19, 2018 at 3:15 am
Henrikson records every bird he sees and hears. But he doesn’t stop there. He and many of the people he birds with submit their sightings to eBird, an international digital data collection site managed by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. It is this ... […]
eBird sharing sensitive data: VS
on March 29, 2018 at 12:07 am
Veteran CPI(M) leader and chairman of Administrative Reforms Committee V.S. Achuthanandan has urged the government to bring in regulations on eBird, a mobile application linked to an electronic database on bird sightings. A press note quoting him said ... […]
Planning birding trips or outings with ebird
on February 6, 2018 at 3:04 pm
Nowadays, there are lots of opportunities for birding trips with everything from highly organized excursions all over the world to the informal weekend trips organized by local bird clubs. But for me, the best trips are the ones that I plan myself and that ... […]
Ebird & Friends Holiday Show—10th Anniversary
on December 7, 2017 at 4:00 am
It happens in the middle of Michigan in the heart of December. Since 2008, it has become a yearly tradition for The Ragbirds to present this unique family-friendly holiday show called Ebird & Friends. The songs and artists change from year to year ... […]
Mapping the world's birds, one tap at a time
on August 9, 2017 at 5:04 am
People who enjoy watching for birds can now put their eagle eyes to good use. The eBird app, created by Cornell University's ornithology lab, lets app users log their bird sightings, creating "one of the largest models we have of global bird abundance and ... […]
Online birding tool 'eBird' helps birders help science
on February 11, 2017 at 10:07 am
When the Alabama Ornithological Society met recently for its winter meeting at Lake Guntersville State Park, the focus was on the huge numbers of wintering ducks and geese to be seen at Lake Guntersville and nearby Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge. […]
Why eBird is Your Best Friend
on November 20, 2016 at 8:13 pm
Matthew Cvetas, president of the Illinois Ornithological Society, will discuss the eBird website at the Lake County Audubon Society's general meeting from 7:30 to 9 p.m. Monday, Dec 5, at the Libertyville village hall, 118 W. Cook Ave. Cvetas will describe ... […]
Ebird joins Great Race as safety enhanced
on July 27, 2016 at 5:00 pm
The leader of a Rio Claro-based hiking club has warned hikers to be aware of the potential dangers involved during expeditions. Angostura’s mixologist Raymond Edwards recently participated in the world’s leading cocktail festival, Tales of the Cocktail ... […]
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