Someone had thought that a worldwide database of bird sightings would be just the thing to shoe horn into the US National Science Foundation’s TeraGrid supercomputing network
The eBird project, run by Steve Kelling of the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology in New York, together with the National Audubon Society in New York, has more than 48 million observations, 10 million of them entered in 2010 alone by people who think birdwatching is very important.
According to the science journal Nature Kelling is not really sure what to do with the data. The thought is that with a 100,000 computing hours on the US National Science Foundation’s TeraGrid supercomputing network he might be able to make sense of it.
The hope is that the scattered observations of each bird species from random people who decide to pop out into the park and look at tits (pictured) and boobies through their binoculars will some how make compelling natural history of the species movements.
After all, for centuries people have tried to justify birdwatchers and trainspotters without much success.
The hope is that vast computing power of TeraGrid could provide opportunity to turn the work of many amateur birders into a nuanced portrait of how species migrate. Although it might turn out to reveal a lot more about where birdwatchers go with their binoculars.