Citizen scientists flock to Eremaea eBird
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.
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.
More info: Richard Fuller firstname.lastname@example.org
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.