• Admin/Marketing Officer

Making biodiversity data publicly available on the Global Biodiversity Information Facility

Our University of Belize Environmental Research Institute is now closing a project under the Global Biodiversity Information Facility’s (GBIF) Biodiversity Information Development (BID) programme that commenced in June 2017, funded by the European Union, entitled ‘Improving Natural Resources Management in Belize through Mobilization of Biodiversity Data’. The goal of our project was to make bird data, not previously available on eBird and the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) networks, accessible to everyone. Point count and banding data for this project was contributed by us and our partners/stakeholders: Belize Audubon Society, Corozal Sustainable Future Initiative, Foundation for Wildlife Conservation, Toledo Institute for Development and Environment, and Ya’axche Conservation Trust.

The best outcome of this effort is that it brought people and organizations together to discuss and plan collecting high quality data as well as analyzing and sharing the results. Two interns, Lijia Manzanilla and Florentino Chiac, were hired for a total of eight months to assist with the digitization of the hard copy data and formatting of all digitized data for publishing. Furthermore, as part of the project and our commitment to increasing human capacity, we coordinated three workshops focused on data mobilization, data analysis, and communication of scientific results.

We were able to collaborate with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology (CLO), the top institution in the world for bird data platforms and putting bird data to work for conservation and management, for the first two workshops. In September 2017 the Data Mobilization workshop was led by eBird expert, Marshall Iliff and was attended by a total of 18 participants who learned how to clean and format bird data as well as how to publish datasets on eBird.

The second workshop, on data analysis included web sessions and a hands-on component in September 2018. This workshop was organized to enhance the data analysis skills of the UB ERI staff and its partners/stakeholders so that we can better deliver scientific results that can inform decision-making or management. This workshop was led by Dr. Viviana Ruiz-Gutierrez, Quantitative Ecologist of the CLO. Twelve participants were introduced to occupancy models and the use of the R statistical environment to run these models. They practiced R functions and simulation of data, especially for testing sampling design. Good sampling design is a key first step to collecting quality data that can be analyzed. Participants ran the models in R and also looked at how different factors (habitat type, observers’ expertise) affect detection of birds.

The third workshop on Communication was recently conducted in January 2019 and facilitated by in country consultants from Chamberlain Consulting. Fifteen participants attended the workshop which focused on ways to communicate results of scientific work successfully and effectively, engaging different target audiences including media, and using social media to share information, among others.

Through the project we were able to mobilize 1,000 bird records on GBIF based on the banding data. With increased knowledge and skills in data mobilization and analysis and communication of results, the UB ERI and its partners/stakeholders will be able to continuously publish their datasets to eBird and GBIF; test their sampling design and adjust accordingly without having to utilize resources until it is time for actual sampling; analyze their data; and communicate the results/information effectively for purposes as sharing knowledge, raising awareness, informing plans/decisions. We thank all our partner organizations, the European Union, GBIF and BID programme for their support.