How volunteer observers can help protect biodiversity

The Economist: “Ecology lends itself to being helped along by the keen layperson perhaps more than any other science. For decades, birdwatchers have recorded their sightings and sent them to organisations like Britain’s Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, or the Audubon society in America, contributing precious data about population size, trends, behaviour and migration. These days, any smartphone connected to the internet can be pointed at a plant to identify a species and add a record to a regional data set.

Social-media platforms have further transformed things, adding big data to weekend ecology. In 2002, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in New York created eBird, a free app available in more than 30 languages that lets twitchers upload and share pictures and recordings of birds, labelled by time, location and other criteria. More than 100m sightings are now uploaded annually, and the number is growing by 20% each year. In May the group marked its billionth observation. The Cornell group also runs an audio library with 1m bird calls, and the Merlin app, which uses eBird data to identify species from pictures and descriptions….(More)”.