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

ve Running of UM, Regents Professor of Ecology and director of the Numerical Terradynamics Simulation Group.

"It is very difficult to study bird breeding habitat over large area from ground surveys, as birds are so mobile," he added. "MODIS allows a broad regional view of the landscape similar to the view birds have from the air."

Running and a team at UM developed MODIS. The sensor detects information about vegetation across North America and sends it to a clearinghouse in Sioux Falls, S.D.

The bird data for MSU's study came from thousands of bird watchers -- mostly volunteers --who participated in the North American Breeding Bird Survey. The survey is a joint effort of the U.S. Geological Survey and the Canadian Wildlife Service to monitor the status and trends of some 400 bird populations. It began about 40 years ago.

The bird watchers, using the same techniques as McEneaney, covered almost 3,500 routes in the continental United States, Canada and Alaska, Phillips said. MSU obtained their reports from a clearinghouse in Maryland, then analyzed 1,390 of the routes and combined the results with those from MODIS.

"I'm sure the volunteers had no idea we would be using their data in such a sophisticated way," Phillips said.

Hansen said, "It's a really neat example of how volunteer efforts, mixed with NASA satellite program, allow us to learn things we never would have thought possible to examine at a national scale."

MSU's study typifies the kind of research conducted in his Landscape Biodiversity Lab and speaks well of the Montana University System, Hansen said.

"Who would have thought that our local universities were designing satellite sensors, being responsible for putting them in space, generating all this data and now we are using that data across the continent for understanding things like conservation and land use issues?" Hansen commented.

The next two papers from MSU's study wi
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Contact: Evelyn Boswell
evelynb@montana.edu
406-994-5135
Montana State University
Source:Eurekalert

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