Tracking Birds In Farm Fields

In a response to declining Bobolink and Eastern Meadowlark populations across the province, the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association has teamed up with researchers to launch an innovative, citizen-science platform for farmers to record sightings of the two species at risk.

It’s called GrassLander and is a web-based map giving Ontario farmers the ability to easily collect data on grassland bird behaviour.

The data is expected to contribute to a better scientific understanding of population trends that can help to inform science-based decision-making.

“As farmers, we’re the on-the-ground eyes and ears that can play an invaluable role in understanding grassland birds and how they coexist with farming across the province,” said OSCIA president, Mack Emiry. “This is Ontario’s agriculture chance to demonstrate their commitment to farming alongside vulnerable wildlife and to demonstrate our compatibility with these species.”

GrassLander is designed to be accessible to farmers in the field, in their home and the platform is optimized for computer, tablet or smart phone.

An online tutorial is available and will take registrants through the steps of how to use GrassLander and all of the information collected is secure; and to protect the privacy of GrassLander participants, the data is aggregated and only you are able to see your individual information.

“As a sector, we can contribute a breadth of knowledge to inform policy decision-making that would otherwise be unobtainable without our help and an online platform like GrassLander,” said Andréa Dubé-Goss, OSCIA Environmental Program Manager. “Our membership is out there in the fields, and they know first hand what wildlife is living on the farm landscape; this is our chance to better inform the scientific community and policy makers about the intersection of farming and species at risk.”

GrassLander was built by researchers and developers at Wilfrid Laurier University and ESRI Canada, and is financially supported by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry. For more information on GrassLander or to get involved and start recording your sightings, visit www.ontariograsslander.ca or get in touch with OSCIA directly at [email protected]