Amateur Ornithologists Track Global Warming via the Web

June 10, 2008 09:11 AM
by Isabel Cowles
Amateur bird watchers with access to new technology have discovered nuanced effects of global warming on the flight patterns of subtropical birds.

30-Second Summary

The growing community of ornithologists who use the Internet to share bird-watching information, observations and advice has allowed bird-watchers to use bird migrations to discover new effects of climate change.

A new program called Collaborative Observatories for Natural Environments (CONE) established at Texas A&M University, in conjunction with the University of California at Berkeley, has allowed both professional and amateur ornithologists to track and share their bird sightings.

Ornithologists using CONE have noted changes in bird migration patterns that suggest global warming: subtropical birds have been spotted in sites farther north than the species usually travel.

Other technologies, such as the Cone Sutro Forest cam, a remote-controlled webcam that allows watchers to program their own nature shows over the Internet, further encourage bird-watchers to interact with one another, fostering an ever-increasing ecological dialogue.

A researcher involved with CONE explained: “We believe in citizen science. You'll care about the environment if you can experience it. A lot of people are never going to get out to Alaska or Antarctica. For a lot of people it’s not really feasible for them even to get out into the woods.”

Other bird-watching organizations like the Audubon Society and the Association of Field Ornithologists also encourage user participation on their Web sites, hoping to get amateur bird-watchers involved in an environmental discussion.

Headline Link: ‘Bird Nerds: Using the Web to Net Our Feathered Friends’

Background: Interactive environmentalism and tracing climate change

Interactive environmentalism
Tracing climate change

Related Topic: Getting involved in ornithology


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