In order to ensure the survival of our species and the world’s ecosystems, it is essential that birds are protected and continue their valuable services. In the field of conservation, the more we know, the better we can help. To support bird conservation efforts, the Department of Conservation (DOC) operates a nationwide bird banding program to help researchers identify individual birds and study their behaviour, breeding activities, life cycle and movements.
DOC uses crowd-sourced reports from the public to collect sightings of banded birds – a method that is both fruitful and challenging. While crowd-sourcing data is an efficient way to monitor large geographic areas at minimal cost, it can be difficult to control the quality of the data received. This was the exact problem DOC encountered. Some user reports of the sighting location would come through with clearly structured addresses, but others would come through with poorly defined locations such as “by the school gate”. To further complicate matters, some entries would only specify coordinates, often in varying formats, and answers were stored in the same data field, making it difficult and time consuming to manually decipher each location and then design a process to map them.
Our Digital Engineering team used a combination of in-house expertise and spatial technology, coupled with available external resources such as the geocoding framework provided through Open Street Map. We designed and built a process that can dynamically identify the location format and subsequently locate and map the sightings.
Our team helped DOC pinpoint the location of banded bird sightings,with precision and speed, by creating a banded bird location mapping system that is both automated and accurate. Despite the often idiosyncratic public data it relies on, we have been able to help DOC researchers work more effectively, allowing them to focus on and improve outcomes for the birds we all love and need.