Cornell Lab Annual Report 2022

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The urgency and scale of the loss of biodiversity can seem daunting, but it’s also motivating. Like no other organization I can think of, the Cornell Lab is focused on answering questions that matter… and inspiring people from all walks of life.

Linda Macaulay, Chair, Cornell Lab Administrative Board
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Sparking Action to Bend the Curve

Putting Science into Action

Researchers at the Cornell Lab are performing groundbreaking science and creating state-of-the-art technology—but that’s only part of the answer to the conservation crisis. We’re also taking our work to the wider world, making sure that innovative enterprises like eBird and BirdCast serve scientists as well as the public. And we’re sharing science and our tools with communities and policy-makers to spark decision-making that benefits birds and all of the natural world.

Highlight: This year the aeroecology pioneers at BirdCast launched Migration Dashboard, allowing anyone to see details about where, when, and how many birds undertake their grand nighttime migrations over the United States in the spring and fall.

a small yellow bird flies in front of a heat map of the contiguous U.S.
BirdCast migration tools help people know when large pulses of migrating birds are coming. Yellow-breasted Chat by Tom Johnson/Macaulay Library.

Changing the World by Opening Hearts and Minds

In order to bend the curve of declining biodiversity in a positive direction, the Cornell Lab works at scales that impact large swaths of the Earth.

Highlight:  Disease, insects, and climate change are turning the West’s whitebark pine forests into ghostly tree graveyards.  The decline also threatens the Clark’s Nutcracker, the whitebark’s primary seed disperser. To galvanize support for a major collaborative restoration project, the Center for Conservation Media created a short film that shows both the dire reality of the decline and the intense commitment of the people working to bring the forests back.

Hope and Restoration, produced in partnership with the Ricketts Conservation Foundation, is a key component of an awareness campaign launching across the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

Scaling Up the Science of Sound Analysis

Since developing the world’s first bird recording device 90 years ago, the Cornell Lab has been committed to technology and innovation that support discovery. Today we are decoding the sounds of the natural world—from an app that can identify bird songs, to recorders that can reveal the soundscapes of an entire ecosystem. As our expertise in the biological world joins forces with world-leading big-data analysis and machine learning, we are expanding what’s possible in conservation.

Highlight: What started as a project to monitor owls in California has blossomed into a complex operation that demonstrates the possibilities of passive acoustic monitoring. The K. Lisa Yang Center for Conservation Bioacoustics now has 2,000 recording units spread throughout 7,000 square miles of the Sierra Nevada. The array uses BirdNET to continuously detect and identify virtually every bird species in the region, as well as projects to monitor the return of gray wolves and to detect populations of endangered Yosemite toads.


Saving the Planet Will Require Interdisciplinary Science

We bring together scientists with a diversity of perspectives to practice alongside artists, data scientists, engineers, and archivists. Using this interdisciplinary, tech-forward approach we train and equip the next generation of science leaders.

Highlight: In a world of limited resources, just monitoring biodiversity is beyond the means of many governments. Lab research associate Courtney Davis is helping develop a Biodiversity Progress Index that uses eBird records and big-data analysis to measure “community completeness.” It yields a 1–100 scale of how bird diversity is doing at unprecedented levels of detail. By creating clear feedback and direction for policy-makers, it’s in essence a scorecard for saving the planet.

nine paintings of birds, an egg, a  spread wing, and a bird skull
A sampling of students’ final projects for the undergraduate course The Art and Science of Birds.

What Good Is One Person’s Bird Observation? A Whole Lot

Every time you go outside and see or hear a bird is a moment of wonder and discovery. And those moments mean even more thanks to the power of eBird, Merlin, and the Macaulay Library. Every bird observation, photograph, and sound recording enhances the scientific value and global reach of these free resources, used by recreational birdwatchers and researchers alike.

Every single observation becomes part of a global database anyone can use. They contribute to groundbreaking research; help make Merlin Bird ID smarter; give us answers about the natural world; and enhance useful online resources like Birds of the World.

Illustration by Amaranta Delgado.

The Power of People-Centered Projects

What does it take to engage the world around birds? One way is to help people learn about them and love them. Our globe-spanning, people-centered programs help grow the ranks of bird lovers and people who care about protecting the natural world. Tens of millions of people have engaged with the Lab’s programs, projects, and people, and the ranks are growing.

Highlight: Sometimes a little funding is all that stands in the way of a big result. Last year, Celebrate Urban Birds awarded 32 “mini-grants” to local organizations in 15 countries and 3 U.S. states. Made possible by the Tom Cade Memorial Fund, the grants supported workshops and special events for 14,500 people.

educators and children hold a banner reading The Cornell Lab of Ornithology Celebra Las Aves Urbanas
Mini-grants helped more than 14,500 people participate in conservation and education projects this year. Image courtesy Celebrate Urban Birds.

Financials

2022 Fiscal Year: July 1, 2021 to June 30, 2022

Thank you for supporting the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. In fiscal year 2022, thousands of members and donors provided more than 70% of our annual revenue, a total of $30.8 million that expands our capacity to promote global conservation through research, education, and citizen science.

As it was for many people and organizations, fiscal year 2022 was again unusual for the Lab: we saw an increase in charitable giving, combined with a minimal increase in expenses (in part driven by a tight labor market and continued reduction in travel due to the pandemic).

As a result, the Lab ended the year with an uncommon surplus of funds. As we emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic, this surplus will allow us to grow in strategic ways as quickly as possible in fiscal year 2023 and beyond, particularly given that the threats facing birds and biodiversity are immediate and significant. Thank you for making it possible for us to invest in our vital research, education, and conservation efforts.

We’re pleased to include a downloadable list of our Sapsucker Woods Society members and honor and memorial tributes here.

10-Year Trend (2013–2022)

The bar chart depicts healthy growth over the past 10 years with revenues exceeding expenditures, allowing the Lab to continually expand and strengthen our vital research, education, and conservation efforts.

Download previous annual reports here:
2021, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009

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