Marshall Iliff

eBird Project Co-Leader

Expertise

eBird • Status and Trends • Migration • Species Distribution • Taxonomy

Most of my time is helping to manage the eBird project, with a particular focus on data quality and review of our scientific output. I also help coordinate the eBird/Clements taxonomy and its integration into Cornell Lab resources.

I have long been interested in coordinating birdwatchers to try to put their sightings to good use for science and increased understanding of birds and the natural world. Prior to working for eBird, I tried to coordinate databases of sightings in Maryland and Baja California and had always been dreaming of a project like eBird.

Now, I am thrilled to see what eBird has become and am thrilled to be able to contribute to make it a little bit better. The notion of connecting birders around the world, through their sightings, to one another even when there may be language barriers or when they may be a world apart is inspiring to me. Seeing how we are already using the data and what the future potential is keeps me excited every day. And I have loved the collaborative atmosphere at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the ever-increasing options for collaborating between projects to provide new and exciting products and projects.

Spark Moment

My interest in birds was sparked in 1987, at age 11, when I attended a National Wildlife Federation “Ranger Rick” camp. I had a strong interest in animals and nature, focused on reptiles and amphibians, but had never really been birdwatching before. The camp offered 6am morning bird walks and my friend Hank Taliaferro and I finally got up early for one and were instantly hooked. We saw Chimney Swifts, described as flying cigars with wings and saw a Blue-headed Vireo on a nest. Most importantly, we learned the songs of five species that day, including flyover American Goldfinches saying “potato chip”, a call I have never forgotten since that day. Although I had tried birding before, the notion of identifying them by ear was totally new to me and set me off on a lifetime passion.

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