Information Science

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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 cyberinfrastructure 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

Citizen Science

We lead the development of web-based projects that engage hundreds of thousands of citizen-science participants in contributing to the understanding and conservation of birds.


eBird offers innovative online tools for birders to keep track of their own lists and contribute their bird sightings for use in science and conservation. Birders, scientists, and conservationists can collect, manage, and store their observations in eBird’s globally accessible database—or use graphing, mapping, and analysis tools to better understand patterns of bird occurrence and the environmental and human factors that influence them. This real-time data resource produces millions of observations per year from across the hemisphere. eBird is a joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society.

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Great Backyard Bird Count

Begun in 1998, the four-day Great Backyard Bird Count was the first citizen-science program to collect and display bird observation data online on a large scale. Today, the Great Backyard Bird Count is one of the most popular annual events among bird watchers. It has been merged with the eBird online checklist program to make the information gathered even more useful to science and to allow people to take part anywhere in the world with an Internet connection. The Great Backyard Bird Count is a joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society with Canadian partner Bird Studies Canada.

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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. See examples of online Breeding Bird Atlases.

eBird Trail Tracker

The eBird Trail Tracker kiosk is a useful addtion to wildlife refuges, nature centers, and birding trails. On its interactive display, visitors can see which birds are being reported, 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 Western Hemisphere.

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More Citizen-Science Projects

Additional citizen-science projects include Project FeederWatch, NestWatch, and Celebrate Urban Birds, led by the Cornell Lab’s Citizen Science program.

Data Exploration, Visualization, and Analysis

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

Advances in Species Distribution Modeling

Why do birds occur where they do? And why do the distributions of some species change through time? This information is crucial for conservation of bird populations, but current methods of analyzing spatiotemporal dynamics are unreliable. We developed a modeling framework that allows researchers to incorporate time- and region-specific elements into a predictive analysis. The resulting models are called spatiotemporal exploratory models, or STEMs, which can be used to study how populations respond over time to broad-scale changes in their environments—for example, changes in land-use patterns, pollution patterns, or climate change. Using STEMs, we will be able to systematically map and monitor changes in migration flyways, providing necessary information to develop conservation strategies for migratory species. We expect STEMs to have a broad and important impact in ecology and conservation.

Online Scientific Resources

Our pioneering web-based publishing process has enabled the delivery of current, authoritative information about birds, contributed by professional ornithologists and the birding community.

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. Maintained by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in partnership with the American Ornithological Society, this comprehensive resource is authored by experts on each species. Each species account includes information on systematics, distribution, identification, behavior, breeding biology, conservation, and a comprehensive bibliography. Content is compatible with mobile devices and includes significantly more photos, videos, and audio selections from the Lab's Macaulay Library--the world's largest scientific archive of biodiversity photos, audio, and video recordings.

Neotropical Birds

Birds of Neotropical Birds OnlineNeotropical 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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