Citizen science and global biodiversity
Citizen science and global biodiversity

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

Free course

Citizen science and global biodiversity

3 Big data

a bird picture
Figure 3 Setophaga americana, the northern parula, is a New World warbler

As the PenguinWatch project has shown you, big citizen science projects have the capacity to produce very large data sets. Cornell University in the USA has been collecting data on birds [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] since 1966. About 400,000 people contribute each year, and an average of 7.5 million observations are recorded on their eBird site each month.

As an example of the value of big data sets, the bird checklists on the eBird site have been used to investigate the synchronisation of the arrival of migratory birds to the greening of trees as leaves appear (Mayor et al., 2017). As the leaves appear, the caterpillars that feed on them also develop, and caterpillars are a vital food source for the birds to feed to their young. Optimal timing is essential for the birds as they must avoid the cold but not arrive so late that they miss the glut of new caterpillars. The eBird database provided the dates on which 48 migratory bird species were observed, which enabled researchers to obtain an average arrival date for the population. The northern parula (Figure 3) is one migratory bird that is falling out of synchronisation. On average, the 48 species investigated were falling out of synchronisation by five days per decade, although some species were falling out by triple that rate. Many of the species were adapting their arrival date to cope with the change in greening of trees but were often not changing fast enough.

It can be seen by such studies that climate change threatens bird species. This particular study shows that migratory birds are adapting to rising temperature, but often not as fast as the climate is changing, the implication being that there will be an impact on species richness.

CSGB_1

Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to University-level study, we offer two introductory routes to our qualifications. You could either choose to start with an Access module, or a module which allows you to count your previous learning towards an Open University qualification. Read our guide on Where to take your learning next for more information.

Not ready for formal University study? Then browse over 1000 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus371