The American Bird Conservancy (ABC) has presented the first Leon Levy Award for Innovation in Bird Conservation to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in recognition of eBird, the widely used citizen-science-driven bird database.
John Fitzpatrick, director of the Cornell Lab, accepted the award. “eBird was an audacious idea, the notion that humans can act as biological sensors through birdwatching,” said Fitzpatrick. “Today, that idea is reality, with more than 200 million observations and data points in the biggest biological database in existence. By instantly recording trends in bird populations, eBird acts as a real-time monitor of ecosystem health around the world.”
According to ABC, the Leon Levy Innovation in Bird Conservation Award will be presented occasionally to recognize extraordinary and innovative achievements in bird conservation by groups or individuals. It was founded to commemorate the significant commitment to bird conservation made by the Leon Levy Foundation and to honor the philanthropic legacy of Leon Levy (1925-2003), who was once described as a “Wall Street investment genius and prolific philanthropist.”
Although eBird started just over a decade ago, it has already done more to foster the understanding of birds and their behavior, and to enable informed bird conservation measures, than any other single development, said Shelby White, a trustee of the foundation. “Its potential to do more is enormous.”
eBird was launched by the Cornell Lab in 2002. It is a real-time, online checklist program that has revolutionized the way that the birding community reports and accesses information about birds.
The program’s goal is to maximize the utility and accessibility of the vast numbers of bird observations made each year by recreational and professional birdwatchers. It is amassing one of the largest and fastest growing biodiversity data resources in existence. For example, in March 2012, participants reported more than 3.1 million bird observations across North America.