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Super eBird

August 12, 2010
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I think it would be fair to say that I’m something of an eBird evangelist.  Not only do I love the program’s ease of use in tracking my own lists, especially as I’ve become more aware of my county tallys, but I really like being able to indulge, and even encourage,  a listing obsession and still be able to contribute to useful science. My recent project has me trying to enter the 30 year trove of birding data in North Carolina currently publicly accessible on the Carolina Bird Club website.  Once completed it will close a lot of the gaps that exist between the official state list and the eBird version, at least until I can get every single birder in the state to adopt eBird.

So while we keep plugging our lists into the database, Cornell is busy coming up with novel ways to use that raw data.  And in a really cool bit of news they have recently been granted 100,000 hours on the US National Science Foundation’s Teragrid supercomputer.  That’s cool enough, but the eBird team is also going to combine the bird sightings we’ve been bust inputting with remote sensing information from Spectroradiometers on board NASA satellites, which can determining which areas are ‘greening up’ in the spring and compare that to the movement of neotropic migrants.

This obviously has implication with understanding how birds react to phenomena like global warming and habitat degradation.  There are innumerable variables, and time on the super-computer will allow the eBird scientists to model many of them for several different species.  Hopefully they’ll come up with more incredible maps like this one, that shows the arrival of Indigo Buntings:

The United States is cool enough, no doubt, but eBird just went worldwide.  Imagine when those checklists from elsewhere in the world start reaching critical mass and you’re able to create a model of an individual species’ entire year.  The mind reels, when it isn’t blown.

In the meantime, I’m going to keep entering my lists.  Since I see so many Indigo Buntings, I’d like to think I had a lot to do with the map above, and I certainly want to have as much as in the next ones.

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7 Comments
  1. August 12, 2010 7:33 am

    Nice post…..did you check out this blog

    http://slowbirding.blogspot.com

    this guy is from your town, isn’t he?

  2. Nate permalink*
    August 12, 2010 9:15 am

    @Laurent- He is, but I don’t recognize him from any local clubs or the state listserv.

  3. August 12, 2010 3:40 pm

    That is an awesome map

  4. August 12, 2010 4:07 pm

    as Nick said: amazing map. you just wait for it … and wait .. and then it pops! thanks for the post

  5. August 12, 2010 10:21 pm

    I didn’t realize eBird provided data for research. Interesting post! I’m going to try it.

  6. August 13, 2010 12:08 am

    Distribution maps like that are why I proselytize eBird too. This year we have quadrupled checklists submitted from Idaho, largely due to a little competition I ran. It is great to have a much stronger set of data about bird species and range for Idaho now. Even some of the old-school county compilers and lati-long status trackers have joined the eBird bandwagon.

  7. Nate permalink*
    August 13, 2010 9:22 am

    @Nick- I know, right? They keep putting out cooler and cooler examples of data models.

    @Spencer- It’s amazing that the Buntings seem to arrive all at once in Louisiana and follow the Mississippi River north. Cool stuff.

    @Anne- I hope you do! That’s one of the most appealing parts of it for me.

    @Idaho_Birder- Very cool. I’d love to get NC entering eBird in a big way, we’re dragging our feet on it a bit. I need to proselytize more, I think.

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