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Bird watchers, space technology come together in Montana State University study
Date:6/24/2008

BOZEMAN, Mont. -- Almost every June for 30 years, Terry McEneaney drove around Yellowstone National Park and listed every bird he heard along three routes.

Park ornithologist at the time, he would drive to a designated spot and identify the birds there. Then he'd drive another half mile, repeat the process and continue until he had stopped 50 times in 24.5 miles for the North American Breeding Bird Survey. Trying to finish before the birds quit singing, he'd ignore the scenery as best he could and try not to let the traffic bother him.

"You have to start very early and have to be done about 9:30. Birds stop singing about 9:30," McEneaney said. "You have to really hustle from point to point."

McEneaney no longer works for the National Park Service. He retired in November. But the information he gathered is part of a new Montana State University study that looks at biodiversity across North America. Thousands of bird watchers and a satellite sensor developed at the University of Montana yielded data for the continental study.

"I had a feeling somebody would use it somehow," McEneaney said.

MSU's results will be described in at least three scientific papers, the first to be published this summer in the journal Remote Sensing of the Environment, said Linda Phillips, lead author and a research scientist at MSU. Co-authors are Andy Hansen, an MSU ecologist; and Curtis Flather with the USDA Forest Service in Fort Collins, Colo.

The paper reports that the UM satellite sensor, a Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer, works far better than other types of remote sensing technology for broad-scaled ecological studies, Phillips said. First launched in 1999 on the Terra satellite, MODIS improves on previous technology and provides more comprehensive measures of vegetation.

"In simple terms, MODIS is like an expensive Nikon camera compared to a pocket disposable camera for picture quality," said Ste
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Contact: Evelyn Boswell
evelynb@montana.edu
406-994-5135
Montana State University
Source:Eurekalert

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