Mapping and Modeling Habitat Diversity

Northern Bobwhites

Northern Bobwhites

Citizen science, also called crowd-sourced science, is the systematic collection of data by members of the public to study natural phenomena. Each spring, for example, thousands of skilled amateur birders ply the highways and byways of North America. Armed with a clipboard, bird guides and binoculars they follow a distinct method of counting breeding birds for the USGS North American Bird Breeding Survey. In this way, reliable information has been amassed since the sixties.

The requirements to contribute in the Breeding Bird Survey are fairly straightforward:

  1. Access to suitable transportation to complete a survey.
  2. Good hearing and eyesight.
  3. The ability to identify all breeding birds in the area by sight and sound. Knowledge of bird songs is extremely important, because most birds counted on these surveys are singing males.

The citizen science team produces data and WHRC scientists combine it with remote sensing datasets to study habitat characteristics and bird biodiversity patterns both locally and across the United States. The outcome is scientific analyses that support management decisions for conserving ecosystems and species under environmental change, including threatened and endangered species.

We are mapping and modeling the patterns of bird distributions for two key reasons: (1) to explore the potential of satellite observations for mapping habitat properties, particularly canopy structure and its utility for estimating species diversity, abundance and habitat use; and (2) to map and predict threats to bird populations, including their vulnerability to land-use conversion, habitat loss, and climate change.

WHRC and its partners continue to shed light on bird biodiversity. If significant declines are detected, their causes can then be identified and appropriate actions taken to address them before populations reach critically low levels. This supports sound management.