Information Science

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Publications

The foundation of the Information Science program is our strategy of organizing, validating, storing, and distributing vast amounts of digital information, whether observational data on birds or descriptive accounts of their life history. We have developed a cyberinfrastructure enabling people to access data online and explore millions of records using interactive tools to visualize and display data. Anyone with Internet access—including students, birders, educators, scientists, and policy makers—can use these tools to learn more about ever-changing bird populations across the hemisphere.

Project Highlights

Citizen Science

We lead the development of web-based projects that engage hundreds of thousands of citizen-science participants in contributing to the understanding and conservation of birds.

eBird

eBird offers innovative online tools for birders to keep track of their own lists and contribute their bird sightings for use in science and conservation. Birders, scientists, and conservationists can collect, manage, and store their observations in eBird’s globally accessible database—or use graphing, mapping, and analysis tools to better understand patterns of bird occurrence and the environmental and human factors that influence them. This real-time data resource produces millions of observations per year from across the hemisphere. eBird is a joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society.

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Great Backyard Bird Count

Begun in 1998, the Great Backyard Bird Count was the first citizen-science program to collect and display real-time data on bird sightings online. Today, the Great Backyard Bird Count is one of the most popular annual events among bird watchers, with more than 100,000 checklists and more than 17 million birds reported from around the United States and Canada during the four-day period in February. As of 2013, the GBBC became a global project when it was integrated with the eBird online checklist program. As the data pour in and display on charts and graphs, web visitors can explore results from around the world. The Great Backyard Bird Count is a joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society with Canadian partner Bird Studies Canada.

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Breeding Bird Atlases Online

breeding bird atlas pageWe create Internet tools enabling Breeding Bird Atlases to collect and display data online. Atlases bring volunteer bird watchers and ornithologists together to find as many breeding bird species as possible in intensively sampled areas throughout a region. Atlases provide valuable information that can be used to set conservation priorities, including designation of protected areas, and can help monitor the outcomes of conservation management actions. See examples of online Breeding Bird Atlases.

eBird APIs

BirdsEye applicationWe create APIs (application programming interfaces) enabling websites and products to use bird observation data from eBird. For example, birders can access real-time data in eBird to quickly find out where birds are being reported and get a map with directions, using the BirdsEye app for iPhone® and iPod touch.

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eBird Trail Tracker

The eBird Trail Tracker kiosk is a useful addtion to wildlife refuges, nature centers, and birding trails. On its interactive display, visitors can see which birds are being reported, contribute their own observations, and enjoy photos, sounds, and life history information. The observations become part of the eBird database, which stores and displays data from across the Western Hemisphere.

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More Citizen-Science Projects

Additional citizen-science projects include Project FeederWatch, NestWatch, and Celebrate Urban Birds, led by the Cornell Lab’s Citizen Science program.

Data Exploration, Visualization, and Analysis

The massive volumes of data available today require new, powerful analysis techniques. Biodiversity studies in particular are data intensive: they involve large scales and complex ecological systems. We build analysis tools that help uncover novel, truly surprising patterns through visualizations, simulations, and model building. Once discovered, these patterns lead to hypotheses about underlying ecological processes that create the observed data. Data-intensive science complements more traditional scientific processes of hypothesis generation and experimental testing to refine our understanding of the natural world.

Avian Knowledge Network

Avian Knowledge NetworkWith more than 100 million bird observations online, the Avian Knowledge Network has amassed the world’s single largest collection of data on species occurrence. Made possible by collaborations with international experts and institutions, the Avian Knowledge Network organizes data and makes them widely accessible. The goals include educating the public about the dynamics of bird populations, providing interactive decision-making tools for land managers and advancing new exploratory analysis techniques to study bird populations. Learn more on the Avian Knowledge Network website.

Advances in Species Distribution Modeling

Why do birds occur where they do? And why do the distributions of some species change through time? This information is crucial for conservation of bird populations, but current methods of analyzing spatiotemporal dynamics are unreliable. We developed a modeling framework that allows researchers to incorporate time- and region-specific elements into a predictive analysis. The resulting models are called spatiotemporal exploratory models, or STEMs, which can be used to study how populations respond over time to broad-scale changes in their environments—for example, changes in land-use patterns, pollution patterns, or climate change. Using STEMs, we will be able to systematically map and monitor changes in migration flyways, providing necessary information to develop conservation strategies for migratory species. We expect STEMs to have a broad and important impact in ecology and conservation.

Online Scientific Resources

Our pioneering web-based publishing process has enabled the delivery of current, authoritative information about birds, contributed by professional ornithologists and the birding community.

The Birds of North America Online

Birds of North American OnlineThe Birds of North America Online is a comprehensive reference that details the life histories of the more than 700 species of birds that breed in North America. Species profiles include 20–30 pages of life history information, plus image galleries, videos, and sound recordings. The original print version, published in 2002, was 18,000 pages—a joint 10-year project of the American Ornithologists’ Union, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and the Academy of Natural Sciences. Today, The Birds of North America Online is a living resource, frequently updated by contributions from researchers, citizen scientists, and designated reviewers and editors.

Neotropical Birds

Birds of Neotropical Birds OnlineNeotropical Birds is an innovative collaboration of researchers, birders, and the conservation community to create an authoritative online resource with life histories of Neotropical birds from Mexico and the Caribbean to South America. Learn more about birds south of the border and consider contributing your own information, sounds, video, or translations.

An interactive online course in Bird Behavior: Courtship and Rivalry from the Lab of Ornithology is newly available
Birds of North America Online, ultimate source for bird info, join for $5/month
Shop for our Causes, your purchase supports our mission
My Bird World is a collection of four delightful games that teach you about North American birds.