Date: 10/30/20 1:14 pm
From: W. Douglas Robinson <w.douglas.robinson...>
Subject: [obol] eBird clarification
I have been off OBOL for about a year now, for a variety of reasons.

However, Lars recently perpetuated a false statement about our research that I need to correct.

We NEVER said 90% of eBird were worthless. In fact, a large part of my program is designed to learn more about the contributions of birders to eBird and finding ways to maximize what we can learn from those data. It’s a fascinating and intellectually stimulating part of our work.

What we DID SAY was that we had to toss 90% of the eBird data that we had available at the time to answer one of our SPECIFIC QUESTIONS.

That question was indeed part of Tyler Hallman’s thesis. The question was essentially: How do numbers of each species relate to the habitat at the location where observers were present? In other words, if I am at a marsh in June in Benton County, how many species and how many individuals of each do I expect I should find?

Because most eBird checklists are Traveling counts, one cannot discern exactly where birds detected, so one cannot understand how habitat around a location influences the numbers of each bird species detected.

So, those Traveling counts cannot be used to answer OUR SPECIFIC QUESTION. The issue of hotspots is related to this. Hotspots in eBird are currently point locations. If birders are not clearly located at exactly the pin dropped for the hotspot, then there’s too much uncertainty about where they were exactly to help us answer our specific question.

BUT, the eBird data we did not use to address our question are certainly valuable for dozens or hundreds of other interesting questions.

I won’t go on more because it should be obvious by now that we do NOT think eBird data are mostly worthless.

If they were, I certainly would not have spent an immense amount of time and energy studying those data nor would I continue to invest heavily in contributing to it myself.

So, please, let’s not keep stating this ridiculous conclusion about our research and our views of eBird.

eBird is the best thing that has happened to birding since binoculars.


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