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Integrating community science and agency-collected monitoring data to expand monitoring capacity at large spatial scales

June 15, 2023

Monitoring species to better understand their status, ecology, and management needs is a major expense for agencies tasked with biodiversity conservation. Community science data have the potential to improve monitoring for minimal cost, given appropriate analytical frameworks. We describe a framework for integrating data from the eBird community science platform with agency-collected monitoring data using a multistate occupancy model. Our model accounts for the structural differences across datasets and allows for estimation of both occupancy and breeding probabilities. The framework was applied to Common Loons (Gavia immer) in Washington State. A total of 766 sites had observation effort, of which 713 sites had only eBird effort, 26 sites had only Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) effort, and 27 sites had both. We predicted that the probability of occupancy was only 0.07 (95% Bayesian credible interval, BCI = 0.02–0.51) at the 2324 sites in our sampling frame, though the probability that Common Loons were breeding at occupied sites was 0.95 (95% BCI = 0.71–1.00). We found that probability of occupancy was positively related to waterbody size (probability of a positive effect = 0.88) and negatively related to an index of human influence (probability of a negative effect = 0.94). We found that probability of breeding at occupied sites was positively related to tree canopy cover (0.86), negatively related to elevation (0.99), and negatively related to barren, scrub/shrub, and herbaceous land cover (0.98). We found that state agency biologists were 16 times more likely to detect breeding Common Loons at a site than were eBird users (0.94, 95% BCI = 0.78–0.99 for agency biologists vs. 0.08, 95% BCI = 0.06–0.10 for eBird users). However, the amount of effort expended by eBird users meant that they confirmed Common Loons at 94 sites while agency biologists confirmed them at just 24 sites, although evidence of reproduction was only contributed by agency biologists. Our results provide a better understanding of the distribution of Common Loons in Washington, while further demonstrating that community science data can be a valuable complement to agency-collected data, if appropriate frameworks are developed to integrate these data sources.

Publication Year 2023
Title Integrating community science and agency-collected monitoring data to expand monitoring capacity at large spatial scales
DOI 10.1002/ecs2.4585
Authors Hannah A. Sipe, Ilai N. Keren, Sarah J. Converse
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Ecosphere
Index ID 70255122
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Coop Res Unit Seattle