On Fri, 13 Dec 2002 Larry & Mona Rogers <[log in to unmask]> posted a
message on VTBIRD to complain about how we handle Citizen Science
Participants at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology
They complained about two things
1. The fact that they had to pay to participate in Project Feederwatch and
2. " Like Carl Runge, we saw a one-eyed house finch about a month ago.
We were aware that there was an epidemic of conjunctivitis among house
finches, and asked VTBIRD if anyone knew of any organization that was
collecting reports of diseased finches. Someone kindly pointed us toward
the Cornell Lab of Ornithology Web Site.
At the web site, we found that we would have to register as
participants in their house finch disease survey to make our report. We
dutifully provided them with our names, address, phone number, E-Mail
address, password, fingerprints, retinal image, DNA samples, etc. and waited
to hear back from them so that we could enter our sighting. It's been
nearly a month, and we've heard nothing."
I believe the first complaint was well addressed by Dayle Ann
<[log in to unmask]>, on Sat, 14 Dec 2002 .
Since I am responsible for the research project on mycoplasmal
conjunctivitis in house finches (and some other bird species) I will
briefly address the second complaint.
- The House Finch Disease Survey is one of the more successful studies
describing the seasonal and regional dynamics of a new disease in wild
birds. The reason this study is so successful is that thousands of
participants have reported observations since 1994 and are still continuing
We regularly report our findings to participants (in
- a page with links to reports http://birds.cornell.edu/hofi/news.html and
in Living Bird, two Lab of Ornithology publications) and on the web
http://birds.cornell.edu/hofi/. We also report to the greater scientific
community by publishing the results in peer-reviewed publications.
- Since we track the geographic distribution of healthy and diseased birds
as reported by participants we need to be able to determine the location of
any observation. That is why we ask participants to sign up and provide
- The simplest way to identify a participant is via an ID number. At the
moment we cannot automatically provide an ID number when a participant
signs up on the web. That is why it takes days (sometimes weeks) for a new
participant to get her/his ID number. We are working on that, and hopefully
will have an automated system set up next year.
There is no fee to participate in the House Finch Disease Survey.
Nevertheless participants to the survey receive BirdScope free every three
months. The reason we send this newsletter to participants is because we
are grateful for the time and effort participants put in the project AND
because we believe it is vital for the success of any citizen science
project to report back to participants AND because we want to inform
participants of any project about the other exiting projects that are
happening around the Lab.
I sincerely hope that Larry & Mona Rogers will participate/be able to
participate/ continue to participate in the House Finch Disease Survey (and
other Lab of Ornithology projects) because every observation is important.
André Dhondt - [log in to unmask]
Edwin H. Morgens Professor of Ornithology
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and
Director of "Bird Population Studies" at
Laboratory of Ornithology, Cornell University
159 Sapsucker Woods Road, Ithaca, NY 14850