Information Science

Scientific Papers

How You Can Help

We rely on your support to develop and improve eBird, a tool that collects milliions of bird observations each year to help scientists.

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The foundation of the Information Science program is our strategy of organizing, validating, storing, and distributing vast amounts of digital information, whether observational data on birds or descriptive accounts of their life history. We have developed a cyber infrastructure enabling people to access data online and explore millions of records using interactive tools to visualize and display data. Anyone with Internet access—including students, birders, educators, scientists, and policy makers—can use these tools to learn more about ever-changing bird populations across the hemisphere.

Project Highlights


eBird’s global reach allows birders to keep track of their personal lists and collects vast amounts of data that can be used for science and conservation. eBird can generate graphs, maps, and detailed analysis tools to help scientists better understand patterns of bird occurrence and the environmental and human factors that influence them. eBird is a joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society.

Great Backyard Bird Count

The four-day Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) is a global event, integrated with the eBird online checklist program. Bird watchers of all skill levels are welcome. Participants submit observations from more than 120 countries documenting more than half the world’s species. The count is a joint project of the Cornell Lab and Audubon with Canadian partner, Bird Studies Canada.

Breeding Bird Atlases Online

breeding bird atlas pageWe create Internet tools enabling Breeding Bird Atlases to collect and display data online. Atlases bring volunteer bird watchers and ornithologists together to find as many breeding bird species as possible in intensively sampled areas throughout a region. Atlases provide valuable information that can be used to set conservation priorities, including designation of protected areas, and can help monitor the outcomes of conservation management actions.

eBird Trail Tracker

The eBird Trail Tracker kiosk is a useful addition to wildlife refuges, nature centers, and birding trails. On its interactive display, visitors can see which birds are being reported at the site, contribute their own observations, and enjoy photos, sounds, and life history information. The observations become part of the eBird database, which stores and displays data from across the world.

Data Exploration, Visualization, and Analysis

The massive volumes of data available today require new, powerful analysis techniques. Biodiversity studies in particular involve large scales and complex ecological systems. We build analysis tools that help uncover novel, truly surprising patterns through visualizations, simulations, and model building. Data-intensive science complements more traditional scientific processes of hypothesis generation and experimental testing to refine our understanding of the natural world.

Exploring Species Distribution

To explore where birds live and how their distribution may be changing, we developed a new modeling framework that incorporates time- and region-specific elements into a predictive analysis. The resulting spatiotemporal exploratory models (STEMs) can be used to study how populations respond over time to broad-scale changes in land-use patterns, pollution, or climate. Using these dynamic maps, we will also be able to monitor changes in migration flyways, key to developing conservation strategies for at-risk species.

The Birds of North America

Birds of North AmericaThe Birds of North America is the preeminent source of life history information for more than 750 bird species that breed in the United States and Canada. This comprehensive resource is authored by experts on each species. Each species account includes information on systematics, distribution, identification, behavior, breeding biology, and conservation along with photos, audio, and video. It is maintained by the Cornell Lab in partnership with the American Ornithological Society.

Neotropical Birds

Neotropical Birds is an innovative collaboration of researchers, birders, and the conservation community to create an authoritative online resource with life histories of Neotropical birds from Mexico and the Caribbean to South America. Learn more about birds south of the border and consider contributing your own information, sounds, video, or translations.

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