A program in California is encouraging farmers to provide homes for birds -- and it's all founded on pioneering citizen science. The program, called BirdReturns, uses data from the app eBird, on which birdwatchers record sightings and send them to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. As The Dodo reported in January, the program will create 10,000 acres of wetlands in drought-stricken areas.
Using this data, the software creates maps showing where wetland species congregate -- and compares them to maps of surface water, reports the New York Times. Next, the program pinpoints farmers with land in the most-needed areas, and pays them to create "pop-up" wetlands that migrating birds can stop at.
The BirdReturns program, financed by the Nature Conservancy, then pays rice farmers in the birds' flight path to keep their fields flooded with irrigation water from the Sacramento River as migrating flocks arrive. The prices are determined by reverse auction, in which farmers bid for leases and the lowest bidder wins.