Esri supports project to protect rare bird species

Esri provides GIS solutions and support to Turkish university's birdwatching project

Esri is supporting Middle East Technical University (METU) project to survey bird populations on Lake Eymir.
Esri is supporting Middle East Technical University (METU) project to survey bird populations on Lake Eymir.

GIS specialist Esri is supporting a project to survey birds around Lake Eymir in Turkey.

The 13 square kilometers of forestland and rocky terrain around the lake are part of the the Middle East Technical University (METU) campus, and are home to a wide range of flora and fauna.

The lake and its surrounds form the focus of a project by İbrahim Kaan Özgencil is a PhD student in the METU Department of Biological Sciences and a board member of METU's Birdwatching Club. Özgencil has been leading a project, Investigating the Biodiversity of Lake Eymir Area's Forest and Steppe Ecosystems and Determining Conservation Priority Zones.

The Birdwatching Club carried out the research on birds, aiming to uncover the physical, biological, and man-made elements that may have an impact on the distribution of birds within the area. As a result, the project defines priority areas of bird protection as well as zoning areas for humans' activities, based on scientific grounds findings.

To support the project, METU received an Esri Conservation Program Grant, which covers geographic information system (GIS) software and analysis. Esri Turkey assisted the project team with regards to hands-on software training, product features, and technical support.

Esri mapping solutions helped the project team to plan more efficient surveying of Lake Eymir and surrounds, to maximise the time of the small surveying team.

METU and the Birdwatching club have deployed Esri solutions to help two main challenges of surveying a large, irregular area of difficult terrain, with a small team, and reliance on paper mapping and forms for data collection.

Esri’s ArcGIS was used to identify the appropriate field sites and divide them into the sub-areas for the research. Then ArcGIS was used to digitize these locations onto maps in order to efficiently plan fieldwork. From identifying the easiest-to-walk observation routes to choosing vantage points with the widest perspective for counting birds, ArcGIS allowed the project team members to effectively plan their work.

The Birdwatching club was also able to enlist the help of volunteers to add to the survey, using Survey123 for ArcGIS, so that visitors can easily upload data taken from bird-watching stations located around the lake. This greatly increased the amount of data collected for the project. With the help of ArcGIS, new and strategic data collection spots have also been identified for better bird watching.

To overcome the challenge of digitizing the data, Collector for ArcGIS was employed as well for the important task of data collection. With the help of Collector, spatially precise data was collected by field teams in an already-digital format. This saved a lot of time that was better dedicated to spatial analysis. With its rich and versatile analysis tools and open data layers, ArcGIS enabled the project team to work effortlessly and assess the many spots for point counts, the counting of each and every water bird. Scientists were able to process all elevation and slope profiles, habitat coverings, and vegetation statuses as well as the human impact on the sub-areas.

"The project came out with resolutions pertaining conservation biology and spatial ecology," says Özgencil. "Now we know everything about our bird species, naming the physical, biological, and man-made factors which directly affect the bird distribution in the Lake Eymir region. We also identified priority zones for bird protection. This allowed us to better plan the location of new recreational activities and services for the area—away from concentrations of endangered species."

So far the project has been able to compile a list of prevalent bird species, their size and location, include those species that require protection. The visualization features of ArcGIS allow the team to turn complex data into easily shared and understood images, to raise awareness of the project. The team is also looking at how Esri’s Drone2Map for ArcGIS can be included in the next phase.

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