Wednesday, March 31, 2010

NestWatch needs your eyes

Cornell Lab of Ornithology's NestWatch seeks citizen scientists for its annual nest-monitoring program. Anyone who finds an active nest can participate by logging in or creating an account on the NestWatch site, becoming certified online, making notes about the birds' nesting activities and sharing the data via the "My Nests" page. The site includes gobs of information, such as downloads that cover a code of conduct, a project manual and quick guides to "focal species" as well as tips about helping nesting birds and details about the protocol for monitoring nests.

Why should someone spend time checking a nest every four days and entering data online? “Collecting this information across the continent over long periods of time is one of the best ways we have to detect widespread changes in bird breeding biology,” says Laura Burkholder, NestWatch project leader.

For instance, NestWatch data from 1997 to 2009 shows that Eastern Bluebirds might be laying their first eggs sooner (above). More long-term data from citizen-science projects like NestWatch can clarify the effects of environmental change and human land use on breeding birds.

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