Today Audubon accepted the accepted the Esri President’s Award for revolutionizing its data collection and management approach with geographic information system (GIS) technology.
Over the last few years, Audubon has used the enterprise GIS platform to identify some of the most important stopover points for migratory birds along the Pacific Flyway, map the locations of important wintering grounds for Piping Plover in the Bahamas, and predict how climate change will affect more than 500 species of North American birds over the next 80 years.
Click through the following links to see how Audubon is using data to drive its conservation goals.
Other GIS-related projects of note:
Shaping Conservation Policy
Audubon Alaska used Esri maps and years of scientific data on birds and other wildlife to help influence the Obama administration’s recent decisions to protect 19 million acres of Alaskan waterways, wetlands and tundra from future oil and gas exploration.
Audubon Alaska combined its data and Esri maps to build the case that the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska on North Slope is a virtual “bird factory” vital to the survival of hundreds of thousands of birds and other wildlife. When the administration drew the final boundaries for protecting 11 million acres of the reserve, 96 percent of the area tracked the Audubon-Esri maps.
Audubon Alaska also used Esri maps overlaid with data from Audubon and four partner conservation groups to produce maps and a 130-page scientific report on the importance of protecting biologically rich areas of the Beaufort and Chukchi seas from oil and gas exploration. Sixteen months after Audubon and its partners presented the data and maps to the White House, President Obama designated 9.8 million acres in the waters of the two seas off-limits for future oil and gas leasing because of its importance to wildlife and Native Alaskans.
Engaging Citizen Scientists
Downtown Owls, a collaboration between Audubon Arizona, the City of Phoenix and wildlife rehabilitators, is drawing public attention to the plight of vulnerable Burrowing Owls by creating owl habitats in an urban public park just two miles from downtown Phoenix. An Esri-developed app allows volunteers to report Burrowing Owl sightings and update locator maps in real time for a shy owl that usually nests in isolated locations far from the public eye. The app has been instrumental in engaging volunteers, tourists and school children in the conservation effort to protect the owls.
Helping Birds and People Co-Exist
North Carolina Audubon’s Lights Out program uses 3-D visualizations of urban high-rises to provide city planners with detailed information on avoiding the most dangerous architectural pitfalls for birds. The mapping helps conservationists and planners track which architectural features cause the most bird strikes and deaths—down to the deadliest floors of specific high rises.
In Idaho, the Golden Eagle Audubon Society is using GIS software to make recommendations on a route for Idaho Power’s new transmission lines on vulnerable Greater Sagebrush Grouse habitat. Using GIS data, Audubon proposed a counter-intuitive path through Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area that provides habitat for significant populations of falcons, eagles, hawks and owls.
The science behind the Audubon recommendation to put power lines through a conservation area? Power lines can actually improve conditions for raptors as long as construction minimizes chance of electrocution and enhances nesting and perching opportunities. In this case, the power lines also could lure away raptors that normally prey on Sagebrush Grouse populations along Idaho Power’s original proposed route. The recommendations are now under consideration by the Bureau of Land Management, which manages the conservation area.
Preserving for the Future
GIS is helping Audubon prioritize segments of forest along the Eastern Seaboard most critical for protection and preservation based on habitat quality and priority bird species. The information will give conservationists and government agencies more accurate information for targeting conservation efforts now and in the future.