Cornell Lab of Ornithology
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Steve Kelling
Paul Allen
Barry Bermudez
Dan Danowski
Greg Delisle
Daniel Fink
Tom Fredericks
Jeff Gerbracht
Tim Lenz
Tim Levatich
Rick Moore
Stacy Oborn
Alan Poole, PhD.
Roger Slothower, PhD.
Brian Sullivan
Kevin Webb
Chris Wood

Staff Biographies

Steve Kelling Steve Kelling
Director of Information Science

Steve Kelling has always had a personal interest in birds and bird watching, which began while growing up along the Delaware Bay shore in Cumberland Co New Jersey. From this beginning he has had a long interest in organizing the rich information resources of field observations of birds gathered by bird-watchers into a cohesive data resource for inventorying the abundance and distribution of wild bird populations.

Steve first came to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology (CLO) in 1997 from the Applied and Engineering Physics program at Cornell University to work on the creation of BirdSource. A joint program with Audubon, the goal of BirdSource was to develop Internet applications that engage bird-watchers in citizen science projects focused on birds.

At the Cornell Lab of Ornithology he is responsible for managing an extremely dedicated group of technology professionals who are bringing advances in Information Science (IT) to the field of Ornithology.

Steve's primary interests and responsibilities revolve around four broad topics: the development of Internet data gathering tools for observational-based monitoring projects, the use of novel digital library strategies to create global communities of interested users centered around primary scientific references, the organization of the rich data resources of the bird-monitoring community and integrating these resources within existing bioinformatic infrastructures, and using unique computer science strategies to analyze the distribution and abundance of wild bird populations.

Collaborations and Programmatic Interests

Citizen Science Online: with John Fitzpatrick and Rick Bonney, received a grant from the National Science Foundation, Informal Science Education: "Citizen Science Online" (ESI-0087760; 2001-05). Our goal is to develop "Citizens' Science Online." This project uses the Internet to develop ways of allowing citizens, at any level of prior sophistication, to participate in science by gathering data that will contribute to an understanding of the population biology of birds and for managing the natural ecosystems these birds inhabit. The program has five components: (1) software, user interfaces and background resources on an Internet-based program that is accessible to any North American participant; (2) nine existing citizen-science projects will be modified to make online data entry more accurate, to make participation more user-friendly and to facilitate feedback of results to the participants and public; (3) an extensive library of online support materials and tutorials, including photos, audioclips of vocalizations, maps and other information; (4) integration of all of these Internet-based projects and information via a comprehensive Web portal, Citizen Science Online; and (5) testing and modifying of the interactive database tools through partnerships with other organizations.

Science Knowledge and Education Network and the Birds of North America: with Paul Allen, Rick Bonney, and Alan Poole, received a grant from the National Science Foundation, National Science Digital Library: "Science Knowledge Educational Network (SKEN); Building a User Base Around Scientific Publications" (DUE-0435016; 2004-06). This project is developing an open-source infrastructure to create a knowledge and education network - a new and powerful application, called a Scientific Knowledge and Education Network (SKEN), for building dynamic collaborative communities centered around primary scientific references. The underlying goals of SKEN are to expand traditional, content-based scientific information into a community-based information exchange and to provide an innovative mechanism for blending science knowledge with opportunities for formal and informal science education. This transforms primary scientific references into "living" publications that include the most current information on their topics and allow continuous annotations of the content through community input from both researchers and members of the public. Scholarly authors and editors vet and edit any new information before uploading it to the primary content. Educators can also use SKEN to locate information for their teaching, as well as to post teaching resources and strategies back to the community. Using advanced Information Science SKEN is moving primary scientific resources from restricted content distribution points (bricks and mortar libraries) to ubiquitous availability over the Internet. It is also decreasing the time required to update these scientific resources, and improving access, search, and archival capabilities. By ensuring that all scientific communities implementing the SKEN architecture become part of the NSDL infrastructure, this project provides easy cross-fertilization of scientific disciplines.

SKEN's first implementation will use the Birds of North America, which provides detailed scientific information (18 volumes, 18,000 pages in total) for each of the 716 species of birds nesting in the USA and Canada. The print version of BNA was completed in 2002, a joint 10 year project of the American Ornithologists' Union, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and the Academy of Natural Sciences.

Taxonomic Databases Working Group monitoring subgroup: with Bruce Stein (NatureServe), and Denis Lepage (Bird Studies Canada). Organismic, observation-based monitoring comprises the largest and longest-running resource of environmental time-series data in existence. For example, bird observations in North America alone comprise at least 60 million records gathered over a 100-year period. For many taxonomic groups, most distribution and abundance information is derived solely from observation-based monitoring data. To insure that biodiversity information networks are maximally comprehensive, observational data must be integrated into existing data resources. We will explore avenues that incorporate observational data into existing federation mechanisms in a manner that facilitate interoperability with existing metadata standards, external portals, and data harvesting structures without loosing the inherent value of monitoring data. In this way monitoring data resources become available to a broad spectrum of users that includes; educators and students, scientific researchers, conservation programs, land managers, and interested lay people.

Avian Knowledge Network: with Rich Caruana (Dept of Computer Science Cornell University), John Fitzpatrick, Johannes Gehrke (Dept of Computer Science Cornell University), Wesley Hochachka, Mirek Riedewald (Dept of Computer Science Cornell University) received a grant from the National Science Foundation, Information Technology Research for National Priorities: "Tracking Environmental Change through the Data Resources of the Bird-monitoring Community" (EF-0427914; 2004-08). We will address a fundamental problem in population biology: How can we estimate true abundance of wild bird populations across North America? We will approach this problem from three directions. First, we will use one of the largest and longest-running resources of environmental time-series data sets in existence by organizing the distributed resources of observation-based bird monitoring projects. Second, we will develop novel data analysis methods targeted for analyzing abundance of wild bird populations across North America. Our data mining approaches include ensemble learning, statistical smoothing, multi-task machine learning, and the estimation of change in abundance over time to quantify variation in spatio-temporal variation in abundance and to estimate the impact of environmental conditions. Third, we will make all data and analysis tools available online to allow browsing of bird-monitoring data. Fast response times are guaranteed through novel methods for approximate results to data-exploration queries. In addition to advancing research both in computer science and population biology, we will expose advances in high performance computing and data analysis to new audiences, from biologists, conservation agencies, and land planners to school classrooms and through a website to the literally millions of people who watch and appreciate wild birds. We will enable online interpretation of the results of their analyses and computations through web-based data visualizations and active dissemination and use of this information through collaborative education and conservation programs.