Global Earth Challenge

Audubon Christmas Bird Count is a citizen scientist’s dream

As we enter the winter season and cold weather, birds would normally migrate to warmer places to escape the cold. Normally, being the key word. 

Climate change has lately been disrupting bird ecosystems, throwing off traditional migration routes and patterns, according to a 2017 paper published in the journal Nature. When birds migrate, they change the ecological landscape, so much so that both the natural and human world have come to adapt to these birds’ arrivals every year. 

For example, every year certain birds fly to areas that have farms infested with insects such as ants, grasshoppers and crickets. Farmers rely on these birds eating these insects and maintaining food security for farmers. With a changing environment and climate, however, birds may come too early or too late to properly manage pests. Birds also play an important role in nature, pollinating plants, distributing seeds and managing the health of coral reefs. 

Not only are these migrating patterns at risk, but so too are the birds themselves. A study published in October shows that the global bird population has been declining since the 1970s. In the study, the research lead, Ken Rosenberg, and her colleagues utilized citizen science data from public sampling methods such as Audubon Christmas Bird Count to see changes in the bird population from 1970. 

Christmas Bird Count kicks off citizen science campaign

Since its inception in 1905, the National Audubon Society has made many important contributions to protect bird habitats such as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and Everglades Ecosystem

Another vital service the National Audubon Society brings every year is its Christmas Bird Count. The bird count first started on Christmas Day 1900 when ornithologist Frank M. Chapman proposed a new holiday tradition: that people would count birds rather than hunt them.

Ever since then, researchers and biologists have used the observational data from bird watchers for their scientific studies on birds and to make strategic plans for bird conservation sites. Christmas Bird Count is still is a great example of how citizen science and individual observations have the power to supplement environmental research in a significant way.  

Earth Challenge 2020 

Earth Day Network, with the Wilson Center and the U.S. State Department, aims to bring this power of community observation to address other environmental issues. Earth Challenge 2020 — a global citizen science campaign — will tackle the issue of insufficient environmental data by creating an open-data cloud platform and data collection tool for use by the public.

EC2020 takes advantage of geospatial technology and machine learning to create a mobile app that enables people everywhere to collect environmental data and learn about various topics, such as air quality, plastic pollution and insect populations.

Most importantly, EC2020 will empower people to take civic action based on the information they provide. EC2020 will provide a platform to activate the largest citizen science movement in history when it launches its app on April 1, 2020, in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. 

To make this happen, we need people like you to collectively gather one billion data points within the month of April 2020. The more data we have, the better our ability to tackle threats to our environment.  

To learn more, follow us on twitter @Earth_Challenge or visit our website.