The Center for Conservation Biology is looking for folks who live near osprey nests to help monitor the birds through a new website.
The Center, which is a joint program of the College of William and Mary and Virginia Commonwealth University, has launched Project Osprey Watch, a web-based initiative aimed at engaging a global community of citizen ornithologists to collect data on breeding ospreys. The birds are about to begin heading back to their North American breeding grounds in early or mid March.
“Ospreys are a charismatic species,” said Bryan Watts, Center for Conservation Biology (CCB) director. “Many people with waterfront property have a nest on their dock or near their house. They like comparing notes about the activity of ‘their’ birds.”
The idea behind Project Osprey Watch, according to Watts, is to harness people’s natural interest in their local ospreys for the sake of scientific research.
Citizen ornithologists will log onto the project website to enter data about the pair of ospreys that they’re watching. The CCB wants to collect data on three of the most pressing issues facing aquatic ecosystems: global climate change, depletion of fish stocks and the effect of environmental contaminants.
“Osprey are one of very few truly global sentinels for aquatic health,” Watts said. “They feed almost exclusively on live fish throughout their entire life cycle.” This diet makes the birds sensitive to overfishing and environmental contaminants, and their seasonal breeding makes them barometers of climate change, he said.
The project allows observers to map nests, log observations, upload photos, and interact within an observer forum. It also contains information about ospreys and links to osprey-related news stories.
Information entered into the platform will be immediately accessible to Osprey Watchers and will be summarized following the breeding season. People interested in joining can do so on the project website.