Weather radar tracking bird migrations

Ever since I started birding 15 years ago, I had wished I could somehow link my hobby of birding, with my job as a scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey. I’ve finally been able to do so in the past couple of years. My work right now focuses on the modeling of future land use and land cover, taking existing land cover maps produced by satellite imagery, and using a model to project what the landscape will look like in the coming decades.  I’ve been able to take those projected land cover data and projected climate data, and look at how future bird species’ distributions will likely be impacted in the future.

Fun work!  But since I started birding, it’s been interesting to see other research related to both my initial love (my bachelor’s degree was in meteorology) and in remote sensing technologies (satellite imagery, aerial photography, etc.) that dominate my current work. Over the years we’ve had a couple of visiting scientists who have presented work on the use of weather radar to track bird migrations.  Here’s a nice feature story on the basics:

Doppler Radar Shows Bird Migrations

A cool thing to see!  I guess I’m not quite sure of the practical applications in terms of bird conservation.  Perhaps long term records and comparisons of radar patterns over multiple years could identify trends in the timing or patterns of migration.  In the meantime, it’s a neat application of a technology devised for other purposes.

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