Two (online) birds in the hand

Citizen scientists flock to Eremaea eBird

Bird nuts in action at Oxley Creek Commons in Brisbane’s outer suburbs (the ‘nut’ in the broad brimmed hat is Hugh Possingham). Birdwatchers have been listing birds in this location over many years. Eremaea eBird will now make the fruits of these efforts available to everyone at the touch of a button.

Bird nuts in action at Oxley Creek Commons in Brisbane’s outer suburbs (the ‘nut’ in the broad brimmed hat is Hugh Possingham). Birdwatchers have been listing birds in this location over many years. Eremaea eBird will now make the fruits of these efforts available to everyone at the touch of a button.

It is a sad but true fact that several of the NERP-ED and CEED Chief Investigators have a pathological love of birds. One of the associated afflictions of this appears to be a love of data about birds – lists of birds, counts of birds, graphs of counts of birds, lists of lists of birds… You get the idea. Hence it was only logical that we have entered into a partnership with the fastest growing and most exciting citizen science endeavour in Australia – Eremaea eBird.

Eremaea Birds is an online bird atlasing system. It was launched back in 2003 by Australian birders Richard and Margaret Alcorn and, at the time, it was the world’s first such system. The word ‘Eremaea’ comes from the name of the Australia’s great central desert bioregion.

Eremaea Birds enabled birdwatchers, for the first time, to enter lists of birds they had seen anywhere around the world. This was heaven for many Australian birdwatchers and ten years later there were thousands of regular Eremaea users and over 3.8 million records.

Eremaea was founded on the principle that bird data should be freely shared (something that is dear to the heart of the Environmental Decisions Group) and fundamental for transparent environmental decision making.

An explosion of lists: Submissions to Eremaea eBird are growing rapidly with more than 7000 checklists currently being submitted per month. Just two weeks since it went live on 1 Feb 2014, there were more than 57,000 pageviews, 761 unique visitors, and of the almost 7000 visits to Eremaea eBird in the first two weeks, more than 22% were first time visits. These visits have predominantly come from Australia, but the site is already being visited from 45 other countries around the world.

An explosion of lists: Submissions to Eremaea eBird are growing rapidly with more than 7000 checklists currently being submitted per month. Just two weeks since it went live on 1 Feb 2014, there were more than 57,000 pageviews, 761 unique visitors, and of the almost 7000 visits to Eremaea eBird in the first two weeks, more than 22% were first time visits. These visits have predominantly come from Australia, but the site is already being visited from 45 other countries around the world.

In parallel with this exciting Australian initiative, eBird was launched in North America in 2002 by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society. It went global in 2010. eBird’s vision, similar to that of Eremaea, is to allow birdwatchers to submit geographically tagged lists of bird observations and to make all data freely available. eBird had a small team of local Australian reviewers, and has had around 1000 observers contributing records in Australia.

With such a similar shared vision it made sense to combine efforts, and so eBird has teamed up with Eremaea and the ARC Centre of  Excellence for Environmental Decisions to launch the new Eremaea eBird portal. This beautiful partnership brings together a huge band of active citizen-science birdwatchers, and secures the long term future for free bird data here in Australia.

Eremaea eBird also provides major new opportunities for understanding the distribution and abundance of birds across our continent, and advancing their conservation. Data are rigorously checked for quality, and continually open to public scrutiny and improvement owing to the open access model.

Eremaea eBird data are automatically shared with BirdLife Australia’s Atlas programme, as well as online biodiversity data portals including the Atlas of Living Australia and the Global Biodiversity Information Facility.

“This beautiful partnership brings together a huge band of active citizen-science birdwatchers, and secures the long term future for free bird data here in Australia.”

EDG researchers are not only contributing to stories on the web page http://ebird.org/content/australia, but we look forward to combining this growing data source with BirdLife Australia’s Atlas data to solve conservation problems in Australia. Ongoing projects include: understanding changes in urban bird communities, building an Australian Bird Index, monitoring threatened species and understanding bird invasions.

The powerful owl, red-backed fairy wren and bush stone-curlew; three favourites seen here and there around Brisbane by the cognoscenti (people in the know). Now, thanks to Eremaea eBird, the sharing of information on ‘what bird is found where’ is there for everyone to see. (The owl and the curlew photos are courtesy of Mat Gilfedder, the fairy wren is courtesy of Richard Fuller.)

The powerful owl, red-backed fairy wren and bush stone-curlew; three favourites seen here and there around Brisbane by the cognoscenti (people in the know). Now, thanks to Eremaea eBird, the sharing of information on ‘what bird is found where’ is there for everyone to see. (The owl and the curlew photos are courtesy of Mat Gilfedder, the fairy wren is courtesy of Richard Fuller.)


More info: Richard Fuller r.fuller@uq.edu.au
Richard Fuller, Hugh Possingham and Ayesha Tulloch are researchers with the Environmental Decisions Group. Mat Gilfedder is a keen nature photographer (see his photos at http://pbase.com/gilfedder) and all four have been involved in the establishment of Eremaea eBird. Needless to say, all four are also bird tragics.

 

 

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