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Birdwatchers get online to aid research and conservation

An app that harnesses the powers of citizen science and big data is collecting information about wild birds across Australia

The eBird app debuted in Australia late last year and is already being used by thousands of bird watchers to generate more than 14,000 bird lists every month. Information can be added in the app or at the eBird Australia website.

"Birds are excellent indicators of environmental change and understanding their populations is not only important for protecting birds, but also for conserving other animals and plants," said Professor Hugh Possingham.
"Since global conservation is not adequately funded, scientists often look to the public to collect valuable data in their day-to-day lives – that’s where eBird comes in."

The app, available on the App Store and Google Play, lets users simply tap and add species of birds they see when out birdwatching, hiking, or simply walking to the office.

A varigrated fairy-wren comes out of the scrub at Brisbane's Oxley Creek Commons.

The The beauty of eBird is its simplicity. Bird counts can be updated live and existing lists and birdwatching hotspots are available on an interactive map. And it’s a great way for birdwatchers to keep track of what they have seen and where. Every record is vetted to minimise errors in this massive global database.

eBird uses your location to find birdwatching hotspots and other bird lists.

The data collected is stored at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology where it is used for research, conservation action and birding tourism. And it is not just rare birds that scientists are interested in, slight changes in abundant bird populations can also be useful to understand changes in species and environments.

The ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions, headquartered at The University of Queensland, brokered the deal to bring eBird to Australia and merge it with the existing and very popular database called Eremaea, started by Richard and Margaret Alcorn almost 20 years ago.

For more information visit the eBird Australia website, or download the app on the App Store or Google Play.

ceed.edu.au

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