Backyard detectives boost the work of scientists


Washington (AP) — Georgetown University ecologist Emily Williams was first fascinated by birds, not because of their beauty or sweet songs. She was nailed to their extraordinary journey.

“It was great for me to find that this little animal that fits in the palm of my hand could travel thousands of miles one way in the spring and again later this year,” she said. “I’m always blinded to migration.”

This spring and summer, her research project, which tracks Robin’s annual migration in the United States, allowed her and her research assistant to set up a temporary research station in the backyard before dawn, housing in the Washington metropolitan area. Boosted by the enthusiasm of the owners — and sometimes contributed their own notes and observations.

Some homeowners enthusiastically showed her where they found Robin’s nest in the bushes of azaleas and where they shared a diary they wrote about the movement of birds through the garden. Not only Robin, but also Cardinal, Blue Jay, Wren, Tufted Titmouse, White Throat Sparrow, and even Robin.

Williams often begins fieldwork at 4:30 am, but only in one backyard at a time. Therefore, like the work of many biologists, her work benefits from the cooperation and excitement of more and more citizen scientists. Some of them record daily observations with Cornell University’s popular birdwatching smartphone app, eBird.

Adriaan Dokter, an ecologist at Cornell University, said: “People who love birds and report sightings really help scientists learn more about bird behavior and distribution.

Arjun Amar, a conservation biologist at the University of Cape Town, is a citizen scientist on Cornell University’s platform as the basis for new research projects, including investigating global changes in the stripes on the face of Hayabusa to reduce sun glare. I used the photo uploaded by. And allow them to dive at incredible speeds. “This wouldn’t have been possible before,” he said.

The pandemic, which paused much of normal life, such as quitting travel and trapping people in homes, gave many families more time to study wildlife in their backyards.

Cornell’s records show the boom in amateur bird watching. The number of people submitting eBird checklists (recording bird sightings) increased by 37% in 2020 compared to the previous year. The annual “Big Day” event encouraged the submission of sightings during the spring migration (May 8th this year) and set a record of participation.

These numbers don’t surprise Williams, who says many of his non-scientist friends have started birdwatching in the past year.

“You may need to travel to Alaska or Canada to see grizzly bears, or to Africa to see zebras, but birds are literally just outside the door and can be anywhere in the world. “She said. “People had to stay home, so they paid more attention to the backyard. I think it’s a big benefit to us as scientists that more people appreciate birds. . “

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