PRBO Conservation Science
Quarterly Journal of PRBO Conservation Science, Number 146, Fall 2006: New Technologies for Using Scientific Information


Information Power Applied

Marsh Birds

Mark Herzog, PhD

Informatics at PRBO
Ellie Cohen on Global Warming
Marsh Birds
The Avian Knowledge Network
Birding Shollenberger Park
Citizen Science at PRBO

The endangered California Clapper Rail is the subject of current work at PRBO that illustrates the growing value of informatics, both for gathering and organizing data and for making needed information widely available. This marsh-dependent species has undergone a drastic reduction in numbers throughout the Bay Area. Its tidal marsh habitat is subject to marked influences--from proposed marsh restoration projects to colonization by invasive plants, ongoing development proposals, changing salinities due to water diversion and climate change, and sea level rise. Only the first of these, habitat restoration, is likely to result in increases in Clapper Rail populations; the others may cause reductions.

In 2005 and 2006, with the help of a number of collaborators, PRBO and Avocet Research Associates performed the first two years of a large-scale breeding-season survey of the California Clapper Rail throughout the entire San Francisco Estuary. A survey of this magnitude (the first in more than 15 years) would be impossible without the efforts of numerous on-the-ground researchers contributing their survey results to our larger data set. In fact, we are receiving a great deal of data not specifically funded by our research project.

Consolidating the disparate data sets into a single table that can be used to do the baywide analyses requires substantial time and effort. This task is about to become much easier and more efficient, thanks in large part to the recent NSF grant described on page 5. As the third year begins of what we hope will become a long-term monitoring program for this endangered species, we will initiate an online data entry system. This will provide all interested collaborators with a set of tools for data entry, data cleanup, and data retrieval--increasing their access to their own data--and will also create a standard database system, enabling us to efficiently provide baywide analyses for the US Fish and Wildlife Service, California Department of Fish and Game, and other land owners and managers.

Perhaps most importantly, integrating Clapper Rail data within the informatics system that PRBO is developing will create opportunities for the public and managers to access data in ways they never have before. Imagine looking at a map, clicking on a specific marsh, and instantly seeing the long-terms trends of Clapper Rails there. We anticipate, at the end of this project's third year, to be able to provide summary information about other researchers' Clapper Rail work within the bay, as well.

In conjunction with previous monitoring and our current research and analysis, this "data portal" will serve as a cornerstone of a long-term monitoring program for the endangered California Clapper Rail.

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