Coming soon – an interactive map of breeding bird records in Santa Barbara County!

Geography and GIS student Riley Anderson is working on an exciting project with CCBER affiliates and local expert ornithologists Mark Holmgren and Adrian O’Loghlen. Read on about Riley’s project and experience as a Coastal Fund sponsored research intern at CCBER.

The project I am working on as a research intern at CCBER is transitioning a primarily non-digital curation of bird breeding records into an online resource that will be more accessible and efficient to use. I start with scanned field notes about birds, which are mostly handwritten and range in age from recent to over 20 years old, and I read them to extract data about breeding evidence found in specific places for particular species. I use location descriptions and/or marked topographic maps (see examples below) to find the location on a digital map, such as Google Maps or Acme Mapper, and record the coordinates of the sighting in a digital database. Each record that I input is eventually transferred into a Google Fusion Table, which is a cool, experimental web application for storing and visualizing data. For this project, the data on breeding bird sightings are visually represented in the Google Fusion Table as points on a map (as shown in the example below).

This field note example shows the components of a typical written breeding bird note, complete with the general location description, 4-letter bird codes, the time breeding bird evidence was found, and the observations associated with each. 



This topographical map often is included at the end of the field notes. The bird observer sketches their route and where they found breeding bird evidence. The pinpointed locations would match up with an observation written in the observation notes, such as those in the first image. In this image, the observer gave the geographic coordinates, but most field notes require using Google Maps or Acme Mapper to find the coordinates through comparing these older topographical maps to the updated digital versions online.



Here is an older version of the Google Fusion Table with a breeding bird record shown near UCSB campus. Breeding bird data can be seen in 3 formats by clicking one of the tabs on the page (Row 1, Cards 1, Map of Latitude). Rows 1 displays the data in a spreadsheet format, Cards 1 shows each record in its own "card", and Map of Latitude shows the interactive Google Map that displays breeding bird evidence geographically with the complete data brought up when a certain point is clicked.


What I am learning about most in my internship are data entry skills and knowledge of breeding bird patterns. One of my academic goals has been to obtain more experience with databases, and this internship has given me the opportunity to work with the data entry of breeding bird records. Because I transfer field notes into a database, I am constantly learning about birds and their breeding patterns. The type of data that I enter into the database includes species names, 4-letter code names, latitude, longitude, GPS certainty, location names, observer names, dates, breeding evidence, nest height, and nest tree type. It is up to me to infer the breeding evidence from the notes and choose the most closely related evidence option from a preset list in the database. Since the data ultimately goes into a Google Fusion Table, this has given me the opportunity to try out the program’s features, and I am still in the process of learning how it works. I want to expand my knowledge of programs like Google Fusion Tables, which are designed for digital databases and mapping, so this aspect of the internship is very fascinating to me. I have also been learning more about Santa Barbara county topography, rivers, and small towns through my coordinate searching. During this Spring quarter, I aim to make the Breeding Bird Google Fusion Table accessible on the CCBER website for the public to view and contribute more information to. I hope to become more knowledgeable about breeding bird evidence, efficiency in data entry, and Google Fusion Tables, including how to make it more accessible and appealing to users.



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