Where’s the Kansas Wildlife?
By Ted Beringer
The location of wildlife in the geographical landscape has become critical information for people with a wide variety of wildlife interests including biodiversity, ecological relationships, wildlife migration, evolutionary biology, conservation and establishing wildlife refuge boundaries. Here are examples of two database approaches that provide substantiated information on wildlife distribution over time: eBird Occurrence Maps and the Map of Life.
The eBird occurrence maps provide data on over 300 bird species in the United States. Utilizing reports of stationary and travelling bird counts that are correlated with climate, habitat and human population, eBird creates a spatio-temporal map for each species predicting its geographical location during the course of the year. These maps are spun into impressive videos that supply practical information to everyone from casual bird watchers to researchers in ornithology. For example, since native grasslands are declining throughout the prairie states, migration maps can indicate where to create or improve grasslands to support migrating birds like the Dickcissel. Visit eBird and check out an example of the video map for the Dickcissel detailing its migratory path into Kansas (http://ebird.org/content/ebird/about/occurrence-maps/dickcissel).
Another more ambitious database, Map of Life (http://www.mappinglife.org),
is attempting to chart the detailed distribution of all species around the globe. This project maps the location of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and freshwater fish. One important application could provide verifiable distribution of threatened or endangered animals to improve locations of construction projects where the least amount of ecological damage would result. The Map of Life website requires a little patience. When you request information on the Lesser Prairie-chicken, for example, you must use the species name, Tympanuchus pallidicinctus. In addition to retrieving the locations of the Lesser prairie-chicken in Kansas using specific latitude and longitude, you can also find all the other bird species within a 50 km radius of that point. The site has a video tutorial to get you started. With a little patience, you can unleash a wealth of valuable and fascinating information.