Your Sightings Count!
I’m sure you’ve heard the term crowdsourcing – it’s where a company or organization gathers ideas or information by gaining contributions from a large group of people (especially from an online community) and sifts through that information for trends that bubble up.
Well this practice isn’t just for businesses – it’s being well used in the scientific community. Traditionally you would have small research groups doing a study on some topic. But in the age of the internet, we are all out there – we’re seeing birds, butterflies, amphibians, bats, all sorts of things – and by entering that data in sites like eBird or Journey North or other sites, scientists are able to turn all of us into their on the ground data gatherers.
The results have been profound and Cornell tapped into it! They just released a report on bird migration based on sightings that literally thousands of people across the Country (yes – a lot here in Loudoun) entered into their database called eBird.
Here’s an excerpt from their press release:
Crowdsourced Data Reveal Feats of Bird Migration
for 102 Species
Sightings database yields insight into movement patterns, conservation needs
Ithaca, NY–For centuries people have marveled at the migratory abilities of birds, but new research is now putting numbers on those seasonal feats—for more than a hundred species at a time—using data contributed by thousands of amateur bird watchers.
In all, more than 2.3 million sightings were summarized to reveal migratory routes of 102 species in North America, in a paper published August 1 in Ecology. The results provide a fascinating glimpse at an astonishing range of species: for instance, the tiny Calliope Hummingbird crosses the continent almost three times as fast as the Northern Shoveler, which outweighs it more than 300 times. They also highlight the immense scientific value to be gained from bird watchers’ sightings when they can be combined into a single large database.
But the new research is much more than a leaderboard of feathered sporting achievements. Its real value is its ability to move beyond one-off records to characterize the behavior of an entire population.
“Up to this point, migration theory has really only been examined at the individual level,” said Frank La Sorte, a research associate at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and lead author of the new study. “But in the end, you want to conserve populations—you want to maintain their migration corridors, flyways, or stopover habitats. And that’s why there’s so much potential here.”