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July 11, 2011

Supercomputing for the Birds

Nicole Hemsoth

Researchers at Cornell’s Lab of Ornithology have harnessed the power of high performance computing to sift through the details of 600,000 bird checklists that have filtered in from volunteer bird-watchers.

HPC was used to create the 2011 State of the Birds report, which resulted in the discovery that more than 300 bird species have 50 percent or more of their U.S. distribution on public lands. This is an important discovery as it emphasizes the need for protection of these lands for conversation and wildlife protection.

The role of public land as a refuge for wildlife was central to the mission of this year’s bird report, which sought to identify habitat conditions and where protected species were likely to live. It also factored in the oceans on either side of the U.S. with an emphasis on the decline of ocean birds due to human activities like resource extraction.

According to a report that described the research:

“Fifteen public and private organizations collaborated on the report, with Cornell Lab staff playing major roles in the scientific analysis and publication. The team generated novel bird distribution maps by combining the Protected Areas Database of the United States with bird observations from eBird.org, a citizen-science project of the Cornell Lab and National Audubon Society. The Cornell Institute for Computational Sustainability, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and DataONE helped lead the analyses, which required 70,000 hours of supercomputer time on the National Science Foundation’s TeraGrid.”

Full story at ECN

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