eBird, the Nature Conservancy, and California’s Central Valley flyway: a Data Analytics story

Sometimes a story crosses my desk that makes me sit up and wonder about synchronicity, and the world.

We have the NY Times delivered on the weekend and pick up a copy from the stands every Tuesday, for the Science Times. This week “Paying Farmers to Welcome Birds” caught my eye in just this way. (link to the full article by Jim Robbins below)

The article starts:

“WHEATLAND, Calif. — The Central Valley was once one of North America’s most productive wildlife habitats, a 450-mile-long expanse marbled with meandering streams and lush wetlands that provided an ideal stop for migratory shorebirds on their annual journeys from South America and Mexico to the Arctic and back.”

Now, the Central Valley is one of the worlds great agricultural resources and 95% of the wetlands are gone. A win for our dining room table but a tragedy for the sandpipers, whimbrels, dunlins, snow geese and others who relied on those wetlands for foraging for eons.

Enter the Nature Conservancy and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and their BirdReturns Project.

Cornell’s eBird app allows birders to crowd source their sightings, which has spiked the amount of bird-by-bird data available up and down the Central Valley. The Conservancy developed the farm-by-farm and farmer-by-farmer data.

BirdReturns then identifies spaces where “pop up” wetlands would most help out our migrating friends, and offers farmers compensation to flood their plots to just the right depth at just the right time.

Ingenious and beautiful, right? A ray of hope project, and a glimpse of the better world that we could / can / will bring about?

This story especially made me tingle because Lighthouse Technology Associates is in the early stages of a partnership with Andrew Means and The Impact Lab which allows us to offer data analytics solutions. As you will see, for Andrew the key is in the questions. The question here was “given the Central Valley as it is now, how can we best help the migrating birds who always have and still do rely on it?”. The beginning of the answer was in the data. The answer was in the actions.

A tip o the cap to the Nature Conservancy, the Cornell Lab for Ornithology, the birders who reported in, the farmers who participated, the donors who funded it, and to Jim Robbins and the New York Times who brought us the story.

The full story is here: Paying Farmers to Welcome Birds

Its a great and heartening read, recommended

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