If you’ve been reading our Mapping for Good series so far you may have noticed the profound influence that crowdsourcing data has had on the world of web maps. Truth to be told, most of today’s “do-good” mapping projects rely heavily, if not entirely, on regular contributions of information from its users. Crowdsourcing data is more popular than ever (with maps and in general), so much so that it may seem like a relatively new concept. This couldn’t be farther from the case. In fact, one of the internet’s first crowdsourcing “success stories” is now one of the best examples of how maps can be used “for good”.
eBird was developed by the Ornithology Lab at Cornell University, widely considered to be the world’s best program for bird-related studies. According to its own website, eBird is an “online checklist program” that “provides rich data sources for basic information on bird abundance and distribution at a variety of spatial and temporal scales.” More simply, it’s a place where people from anywhere in the world can post a bird sighting they’ve had and upload it into a global database. Users can enter information such as the time and exact coordinates of the sighting, the species sighted and more. This data is then added to both a database and an interactive map. As eBird has been around since 2002, the scale of the information has become so vast that it’s now one of the most in-depth sources for animal information ever created.
With countless users contributing to the same map, patterns can be identified that could have been missed by a small research team. The map highlights what eBird calls “hotspots”, or areas with heavy bird activity and presence. A user can click a point and see all of the birds recently reported, the total number of species reported in the given area and explore graphs of data that’s already in the system. The constant addition of data from amateur birders makes tracking rare and endangered birds vastly easier for ornithologists. And perhaps more importantly, anyone can use it, researcher or not!
If you’ve got a bird to report or would simply like to check out the map and database eBird has amassed, head over to www.eBird.org.