#14: Brian Sullivan – eBird, Birds of the World, and the intersection of Technology, Birding and Ornithological Media

#14: Brian Sullivan – eBird, Birds of the World, and the Intersection of Technology with Birding and Ornithological Media Nature's Archive


My guest in this episode is Brian Sullivan. Brian is a long-time leader at the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, where he currently serves as Digital Publications Lead, managing the Birds of the World project, and he has previously served as project leader for eBird from 2005 to 2017. 

Brian has conducted fieldwork on birds throughout North America for the past 25 years.  Birding travels, photography, and field projects have taken him around the world, and he has written or coauthored several books and scientific papers including: Better Birding—Tips, Tools, and Concepts for the Field; The Crossley ID Guide: Raptors; and the forthcoming Princeton Guide to North American Birds. He is co-creator of the groundbreaking Raptor Id app for mobile devices, and he also served as photographic editor for the American Birding Association’s journal North American Birds from 2005-2013.

Brian Sullivan, birding and photographing

Today we discuss many of these topics, including the transformation of eBird into a global ornithological resource, developing and launching the Birds of the World project, which is the definitive resource for all 10721 bird species and has an exciting future roadmap ahead. We also discuss the forthcoming Princeton Guide to North American Birds, which is a project 15 years in the making. 

Brian’s experiences in print media and cutting-edge online media give him a visionary’s perspective for the future of online resources for scientists and birders alike. We spend time discussing how remote sensing, phone sensing, and augmented reality might accelerate community awareness of and engagement with the environment. And this may come about sooner than one might think.

Links To Topics Discussed

People, Places, Organizations

Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology

Chris Wood – an early partner of Brian’s at eBird.

Derby Hill Hawk Watch – a formative experience for Brian was seeing the hawk watch on Derby Hill.

Hawk Mountain, Pennsylvania – seeing Hawk Migration here as a child was one of the first hooks that got Brian interested in a life of birds.

Jack Conner – taught a college Biology of Birds course that helped re-ignite Brian’s interest.

Paul Lehman – the editor of Birding Magazine at the time Brian published his first article, about Derby Hill.

Books and Other Things

Note: links to books are affiliate links

Birds of the World – Cornell’s comprehensive resource for all 10,721 of the world’s bird species, with deep life history descriptions. Brian has been leading this project since 2017.

Birding Magazine – The American Birding Association’s (ABA) magazine.

BirdNET App – An android app for identifying birds by sound

The Australian Bird Guide – one of Brian’s favorite field guides

Collins Birds of Europe – one of Brian’s favorite field guides (link is to the USA publication)

Crossley Guides – Richard Crossley has a series of photo collage guides that Brian references (and has collaborated on the Raptor ID Guide).

eBird – A comprehensive resource for birders and community/citizen science relating to birds, their distribution, sightings, and more.

Merlin Bird ID – a free app and another part of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s ecosystem of resources. It guides people through bird identification, or accepts photos to identify birds.

National Geographic’s Birds of North America – along with The Sibley Guide to Birds, are his favorite field guides for North America.

Princeton University Press – A leader in quality nature and field guides; Brian is working on a North American Birds field guide with them.

Raptor ID App – created and published by Brian and Jerry Liguori. One of the only app guides designed from the ground up as an app.

Season at the Point: The Birds and Birders of Cape May – by Thomas Connor, chronicling the FINISH FINISH

The Sibley Guide to Birds [East] [West] – along with the NatGeo Birds of North America guide, are his favorite field guides for North America.

Music Credits

Opening – Fearless First by Kevin MacLoed

Closing – Beauty Flow by Kevin MacLoed

Both can be obtained from https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/

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