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Brian Sullivan
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Ted et al. I think it's important to point out that eBird's review process and BRCs compliment each other, and both perform important functions. BRCs perform a higher-level data validation process, whereas eBird's review process is more granular. I want to be clear right up front that the policy at eBird is to adhere to all official BRC decisions, and we strive to have a database that is in accordance with all state records committees. We do this for a reason: because BRCs are designed to render decisions on difficult records by committee, and we value that process when it comes to determining whether records should be included in the eBird public data output. Each state has its own review list, and the way these review lists are set up varies across committees. For example, in California the CBRC is focused on reviewing records of species-level taxa that have been recorded fewer than 100 times in the state. It does not review records of rare subspecies (for example an Eastern Red-shouldered Hawk), nor does it review records of common birds outside their normal windows of occurrence (for example a 15 December Western Wood-Pewee), both of which would be much more unusual in the state than another fall migrant Yellow-throated Warbler. Decisions on these kinds of 'vagrants' have always been left to the discretion of local editors of state and regional journals of record such as North American Birds, and now many of these same people are editors for eBird. Some BRCs are more comprehensive than others, but even with the CBRC's fairly strict guidelines for review, it handles hundreds of records per year. MANY of these records are equivocal and require extensive committee deliberation. eBird relies on the wisdom of these committees to render decisions on these difficult records. The eBird review process looks at bird records in much finer detail, allowing regional editors (sometimes at the sub-county level) to set up filters to catch records of birds that are reported out of season or in the wrong location and/or habitat. It also looks at high counts of birds, and reviews any count that surpasses expected levels in a given location/season combination. I would argue that the eBird data validation process is the most advanced vetting process for a citizen-science project ever attempted, and it gets better every day as the filters become more refined, new tools are built, and more editors join our team. Could it be improved? Absolutely. And we're always working in that direction. One important thing to note is that like BRCs, no record is ever deleted from the eBird database. eBird editors only choose whether or not to expose a record to the public. All records remain intact with their review history, and can be revisited if new patterns emerge or new evidence comes to light. As to the question of making 'invalid' data visible to the public, it's something to consider. Right now we are focused on making the public-facing eBird dataset as clean as possible, and with some development down the road, perhaps we can allow people to toggle 'unreviewed' data on and off. For birders, time is of the essence, so we understand the need to get information about reported rare birds out there quickly. Right now the 'eBird Rare Bird Alerts' expose everything--that is, if someone reports a Bar-tailed Godwit here in Monterey, the news goes out immediately, and you can see the record and its details on the rare bird alert page, BUT it does not show up on the Bar Charts or on our species Range Maps until it is reviewed. When thinking about science use though, only rarely would an analyst be interested in looking at records that were reviewed and deemed unacceptable. In most cases analysts want to use the data that are considered valid. Either way, all data are preserved. I should also point out that ANYONE can access the entire eBird dataset: valid, reviewed, unreviewed, not valid, all of the data are available in their complete richness. The goal of eBird is to gather and organize data and then make it available to the science, conservation, and birding communities. The original set of data output tools on the eBird web site were meant to serve as simple visualizations of the data for the birding community (e.g., Bar Charts for a region). But we've realized lately that we need to make access to raw data easier for birders because many of you want to download more than the summary information currently available. Historically, all eBird raw data were available through the Avian Knowledge Network's data download tools, but we are now developing online database tools at eBird that will enable anyone to request raw data by user-defined query, which will address Ted's need to find out about all those vagrant Mississippi Kites that didn't make the cut! Thanks Brian
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I've been thinking a lot lately about birders--specifically, the various kinds of birders we are, have been, and will become. When I think back across my life as a birder, I can see how own my skill level has progressed, but perhaps more interestingly how my mentality has changed as... Continue reading
Posted Jan 25, 2012 at ABA Blog
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In the Fall of 2005 we launched eBird Version 2. Major changes to the site at that time included the addition of the 'My eBird' pages, and a redesigned 'look and feel'. We've come a long way since then! eBird Version 3 incorporates many of your ideas, and we're proud... Continue reading
Posted Nov 5, 2011 at ABA Blog
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The 2011 State of the Birds Report was released this week, featuring eBird data at its core. The same models that produce the eBird occurrence maps, created with the generous support of the Leon Levy Foundation, are a fundamental building block for the 2011 version of the most important bird... Continue reading
Posted May 18, 2011 at ABA Blog
Jim You are right that 'don't have time' is the biggest reason people don't use eBird. To that end, perhaps data entry from mobile devices will be a real game changer. The folks at BirdsEye (iPhone app) (http://www.getbirdseye.com/) are actively working on that now, and this functionality is on the near horizon. We did retain the species group names, so that should be ok. Thanks for the thoughts on wide screen monitors. I hope you have a chance to take it for a test ride in May when we make it available to beta-testers. Please send me an email at 'bls42@cornell.edu' if you'd like to be on that list. Thanks Brian
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Birders Data entry is the engine that drives eBird. Without birders entering their data every day, eBird would cease to exist. The first thing birders want to do when getting back from the field is to get their observations into the database and onto their various bird lists. Because of... Continue reading
Posted Mar 31, 2011 at ABA Blog
Morgan This taxonomy is definitely a work in progress, and while most of North America is fully fleshed out with field identifiable groups and subspecies, the rest of the world has a long way to go. We welcome suggestions on any and all groups that need to be added (or lumped). Marshall Iliff takes the lead on organizing these comments for incorporation into the next revision. Feel free to send him updates at miliff@aol.com. Thanks Brian
Toggle Commented Feb 8, 2011 on Go global with the new eBird taxonomy at ABA Blog
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In June of 2010 we made eBird data entry available around the world. This enabled traveling ABA area birders to keep all their bird lists under one roof at eBird. But implementing a single field taxonomy for all birds around the world has proven challenging. I call it a 'field... Continue reading
Posted Feb 3, 2011 at ABA Blog
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Every day I try to spend at least 15 minutes watching and counting birds in my yard. It's amazing to see how things change from day to day, and at different times of the day. If I go out at dawn I can see and hear most of the local... Continue reading
Posted Jan 20, 2011 at ABA Blog
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eBird is a free online tool for birders that allows you to record the birds you see and keep track of your lists anywhere around the world. Each time you submit an observation to eBird, the record is permanently archived, made available to birders, and also to researchers and conservationists.... Continue reading
Posted Dec 21, 2010 at ABA Blog
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Dec 21, 2010