Workshops & Training Opportunities

eBird Best Practices I: eBird data extraction and processing for analysis

Monday, 10 August (8:00am-5:00pm)

Capacity: 30

Fee: $10

Organizers: Matthew Strimas-Mackey (Cornell Lab of Ornithology), Orin Robinson (Cornell Lab of Ornithology)

The citizen science project eBird has generated a database of nearly 700 million bird observations, with broad spatial and taxonomic coverage. The unique size and scope of this open dataset makes it a valuable resource for studying a range of scientific questions. However, both the large volume of data and the unstructured nature of the observations present computational and analytical challenges not typically encountered with conventional scientific data. This workshop will introduce attendees to a set of best practices for accessing eBird data and preparing them for further analyses, using hands-on examples in R. This workshop will cover the structure and content of the eBird data, using the R package ‘auk’ to extract subsets of the data, how ‘complete checklist’ can be used to infer information on absence/non-detection of focal species, and preparing data for modeling species distribution and abundance. In addition, attendees will be introduced to some of the challenges associated with using eBird data for modeling (e.g. spatial and temporal bias) and learn techniques for addressing these challenges. This is the first of two workshops on best practices for using eBird data. This workshop will complement, and be followed by, additional workshops covering the use of eBird data for modeling the distribution and abundance of species. Experience and familiarity with R is required for this workshop.


Introduction to statistical inference with count data in R

Monday, 10 August (8:00am-5:00pm)

Capacity: 40

Fee: $10

Organizers: Evan Adams (Biodiversity Research Institute), Beth Ross (USGS)

Understanding how to think about and analyze count data is a core skill for ornithologists and ecologists. Bird surveys are a common producer of count data and these data are used to conduct species status assessments, build population models, track population trends, and understand spatial variation in density, among many other applications. But count data can be difficult to analyze and there can be many skills to learn before ecologists effectively use count data to test hypotheses. In this workshop, we propose to show participants how to generate their own count data then use it to make inference with linear models, spatial models, and hierarchical models. Participants will learn how to make statistical inference in R by building statistical models, evaluating model fit, determining parameter performance, and reporting results from a wide range of count-based modeling approaches. The goal of the course is to provide statistical guidance and extensive R code to the participants so they can apply these examples to their own work.

The target audience of this workshop are ecologists that are familiar with R and data analysis but inexperienced with using R to effectively analyze count data and want learn new statistical techniques. All course materials will be available on GitHub for access before and after the workshop.


Taking the Next Step with R: Data Management, Publication Quality Graphics and Function Building

Monday, 10 August (8:00am-5:00pm)

Capacity: 45

Fee: $10

Organizers: Auriel Fournier (Illinois Natural History Survey), Matt Boone (University of Florida)

Our goal is to guide learners who are already using R to be able to automate daily tasks, manage their data in a reproducible framework (using tidyverse R packages dplyr and tidyr), make publication ready graphs (using R package ggplot2), and write their own functions. Anyone with questions about what exactly the workshop will cover or if they have the appropriate skillset can contact Auriel Fournier (aurielfournier@gmail.com). Materials from a similar workshop offered at the 2019 AOS meeting can be found here: https://github.com/aurielfournier/AOS19AK.


Working with data collected by citizen scientists – challenges and opportunities for ornithologists

Monday, 10 August (8:00am-5:00pm)

Capacity: 25

Fee: $10

Organizer: Judit Szabo (Universidade Federal da Bahia)

Participants will get an overview of commonly used bird survey methods. Through lectures, discussions and hands-on examples they will become familiar with spatial, temporal and observer-associated biases and ways to address these biases during the three phases: data collection, data analysis and data interpretation.


Introduction to Motus WTS: project planning, equipment, and data management

Tuesday, 11 August (8:00am-Noon)

Capacity: 80

Fee: None

Organizers: Lucas DeGroote (Powdermill Avian Research Center), Lisa Kiziuk (Willistown Conservation Trust), Alison Fetterman (Willistown Conservation Trust), Todd Alleger (Willistown Conservation Trust), Stuart Mackenzie (Bird Studies Canada), Lucas Berrigan (Bird Studies Canada), Matthew Webb (Bird Conservancy of the Rockies)

The Motus Wildlife Tracking System has revolutionized how we record animal movements in nature using miniaturized VHF radio telemetry technology involving tiny nanotags coupled with a rapidly expanding network of automated receiver stations. This workshop is aimed towards those with little or no experience installing automated receiving stations, using digitally coded transmitters, and connecting to the Motus Network. Our discussions will focus on three main topics: project planning, equipment, and data. Our discussion will include development of local stations to regional networks, optimal locations for automated receiving stations, insurance, liability, and landowner permission (e.g. MOUs). Our discussion of equipment includes parts of automated receiving stations, tower options, transmitter attachment methods, and transmitter options (i.e. choosing the appropriate transmitter for your project). Finally, we’ll discuss metadata necessary for both station and transmitter deployment as well as data retrieval and processing using Program R. Our presenters from Bird Studies Canada and the Northeast Motus Collaboration will draw on their experience installing hundreds of Motus receiving stations to help you avoid pitfalls, plan, and implement a project using the Motus WTS.


Promoting diversity and inclusion in ornithology – mini discussions

Tuesday, 11 August (8:00-11:00am)

Capacity: 40

Fee: None

Organizers: Amelia-Juliette Demery (Cornell University), Jennifer Houtz (Cornell University), Shailee Shah (Columbia University)

The objective of this workshop is to provide a safe space for discussing diversity and inclusion in one’s workplace, addressing challenges we face as a community in promoting diversity and inclusion (e.g. mentorship, hiring, the sense of “belonging,” “tokenism”) and generating ideas to solve those challenges. The workshop will start with a brief presentation of its mission, structure, and examples of challenges that participants may encounter when navigating a diverse professional community. The workshop will be devoted to mini (5-person with a moderator) round-table discussions to discuss scenarios that embody the changing landscape of a more diverse workplace and workshop ways in which to navigate these changes effectively and positively for the entire professional community. At the end we will bring the groups together to share any takeaways. We believe that in order to effectively promote a diverse community we need to encourage a dialogue about diversity-related issues with members of all demographics. In light of that mission, the NAOC Student Affairs Committee is collaborating with the NAOC Diversity and Inclusion Committee to present different avenues of communication between NAOC attendees at multiple professional stages. Our workshop’s format will facilitate a safe space for participants, primarily targeting students, to discuss personal challenges of promoting and navigating a diverse workplace. Furthermore, the observations and notes gathered by moderators of the workshop will be compiled into a series of topics and questions for the discussion panel titled, “Tips & Techniques for Being a Good Colleague to Members of Under-Represented Groups in Ornithology”, to be held later in the conference. This will provide relevant material for the panelists, comprised predominantly of more senior researchers, to discuss with the panel audience.


Sharing Knowledge for the Conservation of Birds: Using Partners in Flight Vulnerability Assessment and Population Estimates to Inform Conservation Decisions

Tuesday, 11 August (8:00am-Noon) 

Capacity: 30

Fee: $10

Organizer: Tom Will (US Fish and Wildlife Service)

Workshop Objectives:

  • Familiarity with the process and products of bird conservation vulnerability assessment as exemplified by the Avian Conservation Assessment Database (ACAD, originally the Partners in Flight (PIF) Species Assessment Database)
  • Familiarity with how species assessment products can be used to establish species conservation priorities at different geographic scales and for different objectives
  • Familiarity with the PIF Population Estimates Database (PED) and its components
  • Understanding of the methodology behind the estimation of landbird population size at range-wide and more local scales
  • Understanding of the philosophy of using knowledge of birds and their habitats to inform decisions
  • Feedback from participants to identify needs for improvements and to help prioritize future PIF decision support tools that would expand the practical utility and conservation function of the ACAD and PEP.
  • Increased awareness and desire for partnership in the management, sharing, and use of bird monitoring data and decision support tools in conservation decision making.

Using NestWatch to Expand Monitoring Capacity: How to effectively involve the community in your nest-monitoring project

Tuesday, 11 August (8:00am-Noon)

Capacity: 30

Fee: $10

Organizers: Robyn Bailey (Cornell Lab of Ornithology), Daniel Cooper (University of California, Los Angeles), Sunny Corrao (NYC Parks), Katie Leung (NYC Parks), Courtney McCammon (Griffith Park Raptor Survey)

In this workshop, attendees will learn to articulate different methods of recruiting and training volunteers, train others to use the NestWatch mobile app and online data collection tools as part of their community nest-monitoring protocol, and discuss their own ideas for expanding their monitoring efforts and receive feedback from experienced project leaders. We will also introduce participants to ongoing efforts in New York City and Los Angeles, both of which have launched successful community-based raptor nest-monitoring projects.


Introduction to microbiome study design and analysis

Tuesday, 11 August (1:00-5:00pm)

Capacity: 35

Fee: $10

Organizers: Brian Trevelline (University of Pittsburgh), Elin Videvall (Smithsonian Institution), Kevin Kohl (University of Pittsburgh)

This workshop will serve as an introduction to the methods, techniques, and analysis of avian microbiome data (previous coding experience is not required). This introductory workshop is designed for researchers who are interested and curious about incorporating microbiome studies into their research programs, but are unfamiliar with the general process and available tools. This workshop will focus on factors to consider before launching a microbiome project, proper sample collection, sequencing techniques (and associated costs), analysis tools for microbiome studies, and the bioinformatic analysis of a mock microbiome dataset using QIIME2. Through this workshop (and associated symposium and roundtable), participants will gain a better understanding of how best to integrate microbiome analysis into their study systems.


Life-cycle Transitions: A workshop for academic and non-academic early-career ornithologists preparing for the next stage

Tuesday, 11 August (1:00-5:00pm)

Capacity: 30

Fee: None

Organizers: Jennifer Walsh (Cornell University), Brian Trevelline (University of Pittsburgh), Emily Williams (National Park Service), Kristen Covino (Loyal Marymount University),Nick Mason (UC Berkeley), Phred Benham (UC Berkeley)

Mentorship, training, and engagement of early career professionals represent important investments in both the future of AOS and ornithological research more broadly. All participating societies, with an increasing number of early career members and strong early professional programs in place, are perfectly poised to offer an early professional-mentor workshop at NAOC. By pairing early career professionals with a diverse panel of mentors, we seek to create a forum where attendees can seek advice on pressing topics relevant to this early career stage. Through this interactive, breakout session format, we hope to facilitate the exploration and discussion of professional development topics that may be less transparent to early career members (i.e., the job application process for both academic and non-academic careers, job interview practice, and the academic research talk). We also plan to bring together society members from a range of career stages to create the potential for new collaborations, provide learning resources for early professionals, and highlight opportunities for continued involvement in ornithology.


Understanding molt and ageing of passerines using the Howell-Humphrey-Parkes and the Wolfe-Ryder-Pyle systems

Tuesday, 11 August (1:00-5:00pm)

Capacity: 50

Fee: None

Organizers: Andrea Patterson (Braddock Bay Bird Observatory), Emily Patterson (University of New Hampshire)

This workshop offered by the North American Banding Council (NABC) aims to develop the participants’ knowledge and skill in understanding molt and ageing of passerines. Through a combination of lecture and hands-on work, participants will actively learn and apply molt strategies to arrive at sound age determinations. We will begin by reviewing molts and molt strategies followed by a brief discussion of the traditional calendar-based Howell-Humphrey-Parkes (HHP) ageing and molt classification system. We will then introduce the cycle-based Wolfe-Ryder-Pyle (WRP) system and compare it to the HHP system. Participants will learn about typical patterns of feather replacement in the pre-formative and pre-basic molts, and consistent patterns of feather replacement within families and genera. Using a combination of whole-group and small-group hands-on work, students will put these principles into action as they practice locating, documenting and interpreting molt limits using carefully curated photo arrays, molt cards, and other similar learning tools.


eBird Status and Trends: Working with modeled products in R

Tuesday, 11 August (4:00-5:00pm)

Capacity: 75

Fee: $10

Organizer: Daniel Fink

The citizen science project eBird has generated a database of over 500 million bird observations, with broad spatial and taxonomic coverage. Over the past 10 years, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology has developed machine-learning models using eBird and remote-sensing data to produce high resolution, weekly estimates of range boundaries, occurrence rate, and relative abundance while accounting for many of the biases inherent in citizen science datasets, including variation in observer behavior and effort. Visualizations and modeled data products for 500 North American breeding birds, including resident and non-breeding grounds in South America, are currently available on the eBird website.

This workshop will introduce attendees to the modeled data products (weekly estimates of range boundaries, occurrence rate, and relative abundance) and the ‘ebirdst’ R package developed specifically for working with these data. This will include an introduction to the modeling process used to generate the eBird Status and Trends data products. It will also include a demonstration how to access and manipulate these data products for specific combinations of species, seasons, and regions using the ebirdst package. After the workshop, attendees will have an understanding of how and when to use these data products for applied research and conservation efforts, including within-year dynamics. Some experience with R will be helpful in following along with the demonstration. Please note, this workshop will not cover the analysis of trends or trend data.


Community Engaged Research: How, where, when, & why?

Tuesday, 11 August (8:00am-5:00pm)

Capacity: 100

Fee: None

Organizers: Jordan Karubian (Tulane University), Luis Carrasco (FCAT), Jorge Olivo (FCAT), Domingo Cabrera (FCAT)

We will provide an overview of community engaged research, followed by a detailed case study of an award-winning community engaged research program in NW Ecuador. We will then coordinate a series of break out groups in which participants adapt these concepts to their own study systems / conservation programs and then share results with the group, in an iterative manner.


Get spatial! Using R as GIS

Tuesday, 11 August (8:00am-5:00pm)

Capacity: 40

Fee: $10

Organizers: Michael Hallworth (Northeast Climate Adaptation Science Center), Clark Rushing (Utah State University)

“Get spatial! Using R as GIS” is a workshop intended to introduce participants to using the free, open-source program R as a geographic information system providing participants with an alternative to ArcMap or other proprietary GIS software. The objective of the workshop is to introduce and provide participants with working examples of how to use R for spatial analyses and map making. Specifically, in this full day workshop participants will learn 1) how to create and manipulate spatial layers (points, lines, polygons, rasters, projecting data) in R, 2) where to get spatial data and 3) how to incorporate spatial data into analyses. The workshop will be comprised of morning and afternoon sessions. The morning session will be devoted to introductory material such as learning how to read, obtain and manipulate, and plot spatial data. Participants will learn how to import and export common types of spatial data (rasters & shapefiles), perform common manipulations (overlay, mask, subset), change projections, and visualize their data. In addition, students will learn how to use common “tidyverse” packages (dplyr, tidyr, ggplot2) to integrate spatial data into analysis and visualization workflows. The afternoon will focus on applying the techniques learned in the morning session to questions relevant to ornithologists. For example, participants will: 1) Create isoscapes and assign individuals to natal origins using stable-hydrogen isotopes; 2) Use territory mapping data to create home-ranges, visualize territory boundaries, and extract territory-level environmental data; 3) Obtain, read, and manipulate remotely sensed climate and habitat data to extract environmental covariates at point-count locations and integrate these data into occupancy and abundance models. Finally, to cap off the workshop participants will be introduced to advanced applications of coupling R as GIS and population modeling by walking through a full annual-cycle model.


Best Practices for eBird Data II: modeling distribution and abundance using eBird data

Tuesday, 11 August (8:00am-5:00pm)

Capacity: 30

Fee: $10

Organizer: Orin Robinson (Cornell Lab of Ornithology)

The citizen science project eBird has generated a database of over 700 million bird observations, with broad spatial and taxonomic coverage. The unique size and scope of this open dataset makes it a valuable resource for modeling the distribution and abundance of birds. However, the semi-structured nature of the observations–including varying observer effort and detection probabilities, spatial bias, and habitat-selection bias–present challenges not typically encountered with data collected using structured surveys. This workshop will introduce attendees to a set of best practices for modeling bird distribution, occupancy, and relative abundance, using hands-on examples in R. In this workshop, attendees will gain experience modeling bird distributions while accounting for spatially biased data and following best practices to account for variation in observation effort when using semi-structured citizen science data in species distribution models. The methods covered will include occupancy models with the R package ‘unmarked’, and machine learning approaches (e.g., Random Forests). This workshop is the second of two workshops on eBird best practices, with the first, “Best Practices for eBird Data I: accessing and preparing eBird data for analysis in R” covering how to access and prepare eBird data for uses that include distribution and abundance models. For those not attending “Best Practices for eBird Data I”, we will provide the data to be used in this workshop, but will not spend time showing how to filter the raw eBird data to obtain the provided dataset. Experience and familiarity with R is required for attendees at this workshop.


Bird Data Harmonization

Tuesday, 11 August (8:00am-5:00pm)

Capacity: 20

Fee: None

Organizers: A. Townsend Peterson (Biodiversity Institute and Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, The University of Kansas), Carla Cicero Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, University of California, Berkeley), John Bates (Field Museum of Natural History)

This workshop is designed as a meeting of minds among those who work with and manage avian specimen data. We will review the situation overall, and lay out a plan–to be implemented over coming years–to create standardized “vocabularies” for the most important data fields. In 2020, we will work with three fields–Sex, Age, and PreparationType–with the goal of creating a standard vocabulary for these fields. Participants will then be expected to implement those three vocabularies in their respective collections databases over succeeding months, resulting in a qualitative improvement in the quality and utility of bird specimen data. Future years will involve more complex data unification/standardization challenges, such as creating a taxonomy field or fields that would offer an interpretation of bird specimen identifications under one or several global-scale authority lists for bird names. The final outcome will be the possibility of creating new “bird specimen inventories” … much as existed in the 1980s but not since or in as much detail … such as an inventory of bird study skins by age and sex for each species, or a single searchable catalog of avian tissue resources. The workshop will consist of five segments, as follows: (1) Introduction and illustration of the problem. (2) Sex: Discussion and elaboration of a standardized vocabulary. (3) Age: Discussion and elaboration of a standardized vocabulary. (4) Preparation type: Discussion and elaboration of a standardized vocabulary. (5) Plans for next steps and future workshops.


Increasing Your Success and Social Capital in Conservation

Tuesday, 11 August (8:00am-5:00pm)

Capacity: 50

Fee: None

Organizer: LoraKim Joyner (One Earth Conservation)

A recent review of scientific literature revealed that the major cause of conservation project failure was not external factors, but the lack of successful interpersonal relationships and low social capital within organizations and communities. This is good news, because it is something conservationists can improve upon. This workshop will describe the theory and foundational concepts of how social capital and an emphasis on the human dimensions of conservation can lead to greater success, as well as team and community member satisfaction and resilience. Participants will practice the skills that lead to improved relationships and increased social capital, and take with them a plan tailored for their particular situations and projects. The workshop facilitator, Dr. LoraKim Joyner has utilized these techniques for over 32 years on front line conservation projects in Latin America and the Caribbean.


Modeling population change with the BBS data using bbsBayes: an R-package for customized hierarchical Bayesian modeling of population change from the North American Breeding Bird Survey

Tuesday, 11 August (8:00am-5:00pm)

Capacity: 25

Fee: None

Organizers: Brandon Edwards (University of Guelph), Adam Smith (Canadian Wildlife Service, Environment and Climate Change Canada)

Our overall objective, with the development of the bbsBayes package and this workshop, is to make it possible for anyone with a basic knowledge of R to understand, apply, and even customize the hierarchical Bayesian models currently in use by the USGS (United States Geological Survey) and the CWS (Canadian Wildlife Service) to estimate status and trends from the BBS. 


Rigorous and flexible acoustic analysis in R

Monday, 10 August (8:00am-5:00pm) and Tuesday, 11 August (8:00am-5:00pm)

Capacity: 25

Fee: $10

Organizers: Grace Smith-Vidaurre (New Mexico State University), Marcelo Araya-Salas (Universidad de Costa Rica)

Animal acoustic signals have been an important study system for many fields in behavior, ecology, and evolution, as well as conservation research. In addition, the growing availability of recordings in open-access libraries provides an unprecedented opportunity to study animal acoustic signals over broad temporal, geographic and taxonomic scales. The multidimensionality of these signals, as well as the diversity of analytical methods and sources of animal sound recordings, pose significant challenges to conduct robust analyses that can account for biologically meaningful variation. The free R software environment can allow users to elaborate customized analyses that better fit their questions and study systems. However, the breadth and flexibility of tools available in R can pose a steep learning curve. 

Our objective is to familiarize workshop participants with rigorous and flexible tools for acoustic analyses in R, including the seewave, tuneR, warbleR and monitoR packages. We will use a case study of microgeographic variation in songs of a lekking hummingbird to work through a pipeline of visualization, detection, and measurement of acoustic signals in R. This flexible workflow accommodates participants with different levels of coding experience in R, and can be used for a wide variety of questions in animal behavior and conservation projects. We will end the workshop with group discussions about participants’ research questions, and how they can implement tools in R to best address their questions.


Field work in molt and ageing of passerines using the Howell-Humphrey-Parkes and the Wolfe-Ryder-Pyle systems

Monday, 10 August – Tuesday, 11 August (all-day both days)

Capacity: 8

Fee: TBD (expected to be approximately $150)

Organizers: Andrea Patterson (Braddock Bay Bird Observatory), Emily Patterson (University of New Hampshire)

This two-day workshop offered by the North American Banding Council (NABC) aims to develop the participants’ knowledge and skill in understanding molt and ageing of passerines. Through a combination of lecture and hands-on fieldwork, participants will actively learn and apply knowledge of molt strategies to arrive at sound age determinations. Participants will additionally be instructed in best practices for mist-netting and banding during the field portions of the workshop. Lecture and field sessions will be flexibly scheduled to take best advantage of bird movement and local weather conditions.

NOTE: Selecting this workshop is a statement of interest to participate only. Interested registrants must also complete an online form. This form is available here and also will be emailed to you immediately upon completing your NAOC 2020 registration. Final participation is subject to availability and approval by workshop organizers.