Citizens contribute to bird survey


Benjamin Zuckerberg, Assistant Professorbird-400x600
Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology
UW-Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
(608) 263-0853

3:04 – Total Time

0:18 – Citizens build Wisconsin bird atlas
0:58 – Bird watching builds science data
1:38 – Birds changing with climate shifts
2:12 – Common examples
2:46 – More information
2:55 – Lead out


Sevie Kenyon: Your bird watching can make a real contribution we’re visiting today with Ben Zuckerberg Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology University of Wisconsin-Madison in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and I’m Sevie Kenyon. Ben, you’re working on what’s called a citizen science project with birds, can you briefly describe that for us?

Benjamin Zuckerberg: Part of what I do as a scientist is I work with a number of different agencies and organizations that are interested in, basically, going out and having the pubic participate in science we call this citizen science and so one of the great efforts here in Wisconsin is called the Wisconsin breeding bird atlas. What the atlas is, is if you can think about it almost like a grid that we spread across the state and we have volunteers go out and collect data on what birds they are seeing. When you enlist roughly about a 1000 volunteers or so to do this it is a pretty amazing effort

Sevie Kenyon: And Ben, can you give me a sense of what is that citizen scientist doing?

Benjamin Zuckerberg: And so, often times what people can do is they will go out and do what they normally do, which is they go birding, but instead of just writing what birds they see in their journals they can actually submit those observations to these sort of broader efforts. They can do this online they can do this on their own sort of tally sheets, but no matter what when people are going out there and collecting these data, they get incorporated into a larger effort and that’s where I come in and at the end of the day is to see these kind of observations in these larger databases, so what is going on with species over time and over space.

Sevie Kenyon: And Ben, can you give us an idea on what kind of things you’re finding?

Benjamin Zuckerberg: Really what the advantage of citizen science data, is that you’re collecting a lot of data which is fantastic and you’re collecting it over long periods of time which is really great. So, a lot of what I do is looking at the impact of modern climate change on birds and what we have found is that many of these species are in fact shifting northward over time, that their migration and the phenology of their arrival has shifted earlier over time and these are some of the most important signals that species, are in fact, responding to modern climate change.

Sevie Kenyon: Ben, can you give an example of this?

Benjamin Zuckerberg: So, species like tufted titmouse, northern cardinals, Carolina wren, these are species were more southerly adapted species and over time we’ve seen them become obviously sort of common residents to our own backyards. The other one is migration and early arrival. We’ve seen this for a number of species that over time we’re seeing that many species that are migratory have been arriving earlier and earlier and in fact in some species, perhaps in American robins, that they have stopped migrating all together in many populations.

Sevie Kenyon: Ben if people are interested in this where can they go for more information?

Benjamin Zuckerberg: I would definitely just feel free to google things like “ebird” and “project feeder watch”, “Christmas bird count.” The National Audubon society has a number of efforts as well.

Sevie Kenyon: We’ve been visiting with Ben Zuckerberg Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology University of Wisconsin-Madison in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and I’m Sevie Kenyon.



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