Say you are a person of discerning taste and you are in the market for a house in Central Arizona. It must be close to schools, shopping, be on or near a golf course, and, oh, yes -- you want some Red-naped Sapsuckers in or near your yard.
Given those requirements, particularly the last one, your realtor can tell you that the right location must be somewhere in Tempe, near the Shalimar Golf Course. Of course there are lots of golf courses, schools and malls in Arizona, but only in the Shalimar area is there a recent record of someone sighting the elusive Red-naped Sapsucker, an interesting native woodpecker.
How does your realtor know this stuff? Well, it's on the web. Since May of 1998, Mark Hostetler, a research scientist for the Central Arizona - Phoenix Long Term Ecological Research Project (CAP LTER), has been supervising a systematic, continuing bird survey of the greater Phoenix metropolitan area as part of helping scientists understand the nature and dynamics of the city's ecosystem. Currently, 72 areas across the Valley (carefully chosen 1 kilometer walking routes, called "transects" by the scientists) are being regularly patrolled by CAP LTER scientists and teams of volunteer amateur bird watchers. The results have recently been put into an easily searchable database which is publicly accessible over the internet.
And the information keeps getting better, as the public database continues to record bird sightings and the project is slated to continue well into the next millennium. Currently, over 150 species have been sighted and Hostetler is in the process of recruiting additional volunteers to add still more observation areas to the project.
"There are a lot of people out there who are avid bird-watchers," noted
Hostetler. "This is an opportunity for them to do what they love and apply it to
the interests of science." Once the system is fully developed, Hostetler plans
to have hundreds of observers regu
Contact: James Hathaway
Arizona State University