Who is XperiBIRD.be for?

The project is designed for schools and educative and / or environmental players in Belgium who would like to arouse interest in technology and nature conservation among children from the final year of primary school (10–11 year olds) to the second year of secondary school (13–14 year olds).

Therefore, the birdboxes are not distributed to individuals.

Registrations are closed. Thank you

Practical considerations

Before contacting us, please decide on the siting of your nest box.

The nest box must be placed in a site that is favourable to birds. The nest box can be placed on an east- or south-facing tree, wall or similar, as there is less rain from these directions. In addition, it must be placed at least two metres from the ground in order to prevent access by predators.

The camera is attached to the computer via an Ethernet cable which serves as both the power source and the data link. We provide you with a cable that is approximately 50 metres in length.

Installation Guide

Birdbox Controls

 

Registrations are closed !

FAQ

Questions concerning the project

1. What is XperiBIRD.be?
2. Who can take part?
3. What is the project’s goal?
4. How do I take part?
5. Is the equipment free?
6. What is participative science?
7. Who are the partners in the XperiBIRD.be project?
8. What is XperiLAB.be? How do I register?
9. Do I have to take part in XperiLAB.be to receive an XperiBIRD.be nest box?

Questions concerning the nest box and the equipment

1. I have received my kit but there are parts missing
2. Is an Internet connection required to operate the camera?
3. I do not have a free Ethernet port on my computer (or the Ethernet port is already being used to connect my computer to the school Internet network).
4. Does the computer need to be permanently connected to the camera? Are images recorded even if the computer is not connected to the system?
5. What kind of shots does the camera take?
6. Where should the nest box be sited?
7. Should a perch be added to the nest box?
8. How high off the ground should the nest box be placed? Is there a height limit?
9. Does the nest box need to be varnished?
10. Can the nest box be painted?
11. Why are there holes in the bottom of the nest box?
12. Does the nest box wood need to be planed?
13. Can two nest boxes be placed next to one another?
14. Should the nest box be emptied and cleaned at the end of the nesting season?
15. How do I prevent predators from attacking the nest?
16. Can I purchase a nest box if I am a private individual?
17. What technology is used in the XperiBIRD.be nest boxes?
18. What type of light is used in the nest box? Can we see in colour? What about at night?
19. How do I record a film?
20. What is the ‘pause’ button in the camera’s interface for?
21. What is ‘movement detection’ mode for? How do I adjust these settings?
22. What is ‘time lapse’ mode for? How do I adjust the interval time between two shots?
23. How do I change the text printed on each photo and video?

Questions concerning the birds

1. What species are likely to nest in the XperiBIRD.be nest box?
2. If the birds nesting in our nest box are not tits, can we still enter our observation data? Will it be useful to the scientists at the museum of natural sciences?
3. How do I tell the difference between tit species?
4. Why do birds nest in nest boxes?
5. What if the nest box was not occupied?
6. When does nesting occur?
7. What is a tit’s nest made of?
8. What is the average number of eggs laid by each of the different species?
9. Why don’t the adults incubate the first eggs laid?
10. Why do the adults sometimes leave the eggs alone in the nest?
11. When do the eggs hatch?
12. Why may a certain number of eggs not hatch?
13. What is reproductive success?
14. What do adult tits feed their young?
15. What is that whitish thing that the adult removes from the nest?
16. What are a young bird’s chances of survival?
17. One of the chicks died before being fledged, why? What should we do?
18. How long does a tit live for?
19. Why ring birds?
20. Who can ring birds?
21. How do we feed the birds? When and with what?
22. How do we make the environment near our nest box more attractive to birds?

Questions concerning participative science and data encoding

1. What is participative science?
2. In what way is XperiBIRD.be a participative science project?
3. Are there similar projects in Belgium or elsewhere in the world?
4. What data is collected under the XperiBIRD.be project?
5. Who studies the data collected by the participating schools?
6. What is the data collected used for?
7. I did not see all the eggs being laid/hatching, what data should I encode?
8. How can the scientists ensure that the data collected via a participative science project are rigorous and accurate?

Questions concerning the website

1. Can I have a login and password if I am not taking part in the project?
2. I am taking part in the project, I have received my nest box and my login but I cannot log in, what should I do?
3. How do I share the photos and videos taken by my camera?
4. Are the photos and videos uploaded to my ‘user’ area visible to the general public?
5. Can we read all the blogs published by a particular school?
6. I would like to get in touch with the project team, what do I do?

Questions concerning the project

1 › What is XperiBIRD.be?

A project launched by the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences and Google.org to distribute free tit nest boxes fitted with cameras to schools and educational partners across Belgium.

2 › Who can take part?

The project is aimed at schools and education and environment players in Belgium wishing to generate interest in technology and biodiversity observation among children in the last two years of primary school (10–12 years old) and the first two years of secondary school (12–14 years old). The nest boxes are not given out to private individuals.

3 › What is the project’s goal?

XperiBIRD.be is an educational project that aims to encourage young people to take an interest in the sciences, biodiversity conservation and technology. It seeks to familiarise school pupils with data collection, encoding and Internet data transfer techniques. Their involvement in this participative science project will help to develop a real Belgium-wide tit nesting observation network. XperiBIRD.be will even lead to various scientific studies conducted by the Department of Ornithology of the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences.

XperiBIRD.be also aims to promote STEM education: sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics. The nest box camera, although very easy to install and use, is fully programmable and offers trained teachers the opportunity to develop their pupils’ skills in fields such as new technologies and programming.

4 › How do I take part?

If you are a school or someone involved in education in Belgium and the XperiBIRD.be experiment, and you have read about the technical requirements for installing the nest box, then simply contact us using the contact form!

Registrations for this school year are now closed, but you can register for the 2017–2018 school year at any time using the contact form. You will be contacted at the start of the school year to arrange for you to collect your XperiBIRD.be nest box.

5 › Is the equipment free?

Yes, all of the equipment is provided free of charge (except for the computer and the long Ethernet cable which is used to connect the nest box camera to the PoE adapter (see ‘Practical considerations’ section). The school may keep the observation kit for as long as it wishes to use it and work with it in its classes and by sharing the observation data on the website.

6 › What is participative science?

Participative science or citizen science projects are research programmes that involve scientists and the participation of amateur volunteers. They are particularly used in the field of natural history, enabling non-professionals to make a contribution to advancing knowledge and inventories.

The Green Paper on Citizen Science: Citizen Science for Europe describes them as follows:

“... scientific research activities when citizens actively contribute to science either with their intellectual efforts or surrounding knowledge, or with their tools and resources. Participants provide experimental data and facilities for researchers, raise new questions and co-create a new scientific culture. While adding value, volunteers acquire new learning and skills, and deeper understanding of the scientific work in an appealing way. As a result of this open, networked and trans-disciplinary scenario, science-society-policy interactions are improved leading to a more democratic research based on evidence-informed decision-making."

Sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citizen_science

Green Paper on Citizen Science: Citizen Science for Europe - Towards a better society of empowered citizens and enhanced research, Socientize consortium, 2013 (PDF link).

7 › Who are the partners in the XperiBIRD.be project?

XperiBIRD.be is an initiative of the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences and Google.org. The project is associated with the XperiLAB.be science truck and various partners have been involved in its implementation: Les Amis de l’Institut, DG (Die Deutschsprachige Gemeinschaft), Solvay, and the Fondation Entreprise-Institut. Our suppliers are Naturebytes for the cameras and Citeco for the wooden nest boxes.

8 › What is XperiLAB.be? How do I register?

XperiLAB.be is a mobile laboratory that travels across Belgium every year and is designed to foster an interest in the sciences among children in the last two years of primary school (10–12 years old) and the first two years of secondary school (12–14 years old). All information on the concept and on registering for the XperiLAB.be tour can be found on the website: www.xperilab.be

9 › Do I have to take part in XperiLAB.be to receive an XperiBIRD.be nest box?

Schools that have registered for the XperiLAB.be tour will receive their XperiBIRD.be nest box when the truck visits them, but we have also set up a scheme to provide schools and education and environment players in Belgium with nest boxes even if they are not part of this tour.

Questions concerning the nest box and the equipment

1 › I have received my kit but there are parts missing

Despite being carefully assembled by Naturebytes and Citeco, you may find that one or other item is missing from your XperiBIRD.be kit. Please accept our apologies!

XperiBIRD.be Parts List

  • The rubber seal needed to seal the case is missing.

We recommend that you replace it with something equivalent to ensure that the case is watertight or contact us and we will send it to you in the post as quickly as possible.

  • The screws are missing.

The screws are cheap to buy and easy to find in stores. You will need eight.You can also ask to receive them by the post by sending us an email.

  • I did not receive a long Ethernet cable.

The long Ethernet cable is not provided in the kits for logistics reasons. You will have to buy the right length cable to suit the location of your nest box. These can easily be found in IT equipment stores (MédiaMarkt, FNAC, etc.) or on the Internet (Amazon, etc.) and cost between €10 and €30 depending on the length. The cable should be no longer than 50 m, otherwise the data will not be transferred correctly.

  • I did not receive the Ethernet hub.

We no longer automatically supply the Ethernet hub. As the camera operates over a local network (without the Internet) you can disconnect the Ethernet cable connecting your computer to the network and use this port to connect the PoE adapter. This will enable you to view the images and download the photos and videos to your computer. You can then reconnect to the Internet network and visit the website to publish the data or write a blog post.

However, if you would still like to use an Ethernet hub, these can be found in IT equipment stores or you can request that we send you one in the post, as we still have a few in stock.

2 › Is an Internet connection required to operate the camera?

NO, the system operates over a local network, meaning that no Internet connection (Wi-Fi or Ethernet) is required. The images recorded on the camera’s memory card can be viewed and downloaded on your computer by simply connecting it to the camera. However, if you want to enter your observation data, share photos and videos, or write a blog post, you will need an Internet connection to access the website www.xperibird.be.

3 › I do not have a free Ethernet port on my computer (or the Ethernet port is already being used to connect my computer to the school Internet network).

As the camera operates over a local network (without the Internet) you can disconnect the Ethernet cable connecting your computer to the network and use this port to connect the PoE adapter. This will enable you to view the images and download the photos and videos to your computer. You can then reconnect to the Internet network and go to the website to publish the data or write a blog post.

If you wish, you can also use an Ethernet hub, which can easily be found in any IT equipment store.

4 › Does the computer need to be permanently connected to the camera? Are images recorded even if the computer is not connected to the system?

The camera should not be permanently connected to the computer. However, the nest box camera does need to be connected to the adapter (see the diagram below: http://xperibird.be/en/participate#practical-considerations), which must be plugged into a power socket for the camera to work. The system does not necessarily have to be connected to the computer permanently, because the camera contains a memory card for storing the recorded images and videos. You can access these images (download) when you connect the camera to a computer (which does not necessarily have to be connected to the Internet). The Ethernet cable that connects the nest box to the adapter (of variable length, but no longer than 50 metres) must therefore be plugged in for images to be taken in the nest box. But it is possible for it to only be connected during the day (if the cable has to pass through an open window for example). You may ‘miss’ a few observations, but you should still be able to follow the nesting process without any problem.

5 › What kind of shots does the camera take?

At the end of winter you can (re)install the camera in the nest box and select ‘movement detection’ mode by pressing the button with the four arrows. A photo will then be taken every time there is a movement in the nest box (hopefully from a tit visiting the box). This is the best way to detect visiting birds at the start of the season.

Then, when the birds appear to have chosen your nest box and the clutch has been laid, you can either continue to use movement-detection mode or, if you wish, set it to take a photo at regular intervals (to be defined, the default is two minute intervals) using the ‘time lapse’ mode.

As long as the PoE adapter is plugged in to the power socket, photos are saved to the camera’s SD memory card. Your PC does not therefore need to be permanently connected to the camera to ensure that images are taken, but the PoE adapter does need a power supply. When you connect your PC using the PoE Ethernet cable, you will then be able to access photos taken during your ‘absence’ and to clear the memory card to prevent it from getting full.

6 › Where should the nest box be sited?

Here are a few recommendations concerning the nest box’s location:

  • Ideally, the nest box should be put up in autumn or winter, because birds start looking for shelter early in the season.
  • Choose a clear site so that the birds can make sure that there are no predators in the vicinity before approaching the box. 
  • The ideal height for the box is between 2.5 and 5 metres off the ground.
  • Choose a site that is sheltered from the wind. The front of the nest box should not be too exposed to bad weather (avoid sites facing north or northwest).
  • Do not place your nest box on a branch or in the immediate vicinity of bushes, as these offer access to predators such as cats.
7 › Should a perch be added to the nest box?

Birds do not use perches and their presence would increase the risk of the nest box being visited by predators which could use it to gain access to the nest.

8 › How high off the ground should the nest box be placed? Is there a height limit?

According to the Senior Ornithologist at the museum, as long as the nest box is located 2 meters from the ground, tits will not care how high it is placed (3.5 or 10 meters up)!

9 › Does the nest box need to be varnished?

You can paint the outside of the nest box with linseed oil to protect it. Do not use any chemical products that may repel the birds (e.g. used oil or turpentine). There is no need to treat the inside of the nest box.

10 › Can the nest box be painted?

Paint is only recommended if:

  • The wood’s coarse texture is retained.
  • None of its ingredients are toxic.
11 › Why are there holes in the bottom of the nest box?

These holes help air and ventilate the nest in hot weather.

12 › Does the nest box wood need to be planed?

The entrance to the nest box can be lightly sanded if you think that the birds could be injured when entering or exiting the box, but the boards of the nest box should not be planed as the birds can gain a better grip on rough wood.  

13 › Can two nest boxes be placed next to one another?

Tits and other garden birds are territorial and will prevent any nest being built within approximately 10 meters of their nest, so as to ensure that there are enough food sources for their young in the spring. It is therefore inadvisable to site several nest boxes (designed for the same target species) within a ten-meter radius of one another.

14 › Should the nest box be emptied and cleaned at the end of the nesting season?

Yes, at the start of autumn, clear out the nest box by removing the old nest. Be sure to wear gloves when removing the nest as it may contain parasites. You can also clean it using a small amount of bleach solution.

15 › How do I prevent predators from attacking the nest?

Do not place your nest box on a branch or near bushes from which squirrels or cats could jump on to the roof of the box.

16 › Can I purchase a nest box if I am a private individual?

The XperiBIRD.be project is for schools and educational associations. We therefore do not supply nest boxes for private individuals. If you would like to buy one, it is possible to contact our supplier via their website http://naturebytes.org/.

17 › What technology is used in the XperiBIRD.be nest boxes?


The XperiBIRD.be electronics case contains a camera controlled by a Raspberry Pi. The Raspberry Pi is a nano-computer the size of a credit card. Originally designed by a video game developer, its aim is to encourage everyone and anyone to take up computer programming. The extreme simplicity of the Raspberry Pi (a bare motherboard, without a tower, keyboard, screen or power cable) offers two advantages: it is cheaper to produce and it can be built from recycled materials.

In our case, the Raspberry Pi board is used to control the camera installed in the nest box. By adjusting a few parameters it is possible to control how the camera operates: photo frequency, recording duration, contrast, triggered when movement is detected in the nest box. For further information, visit www.raspberrypi.org.

XperiBIRD.be parts List

18 › What type of light is used in the nest box? Can we see in colour? What about at night?

The XperiBIRD.be electronics case is equipped with a small infrared LED. This infrared light slightly increases the amount of light visible to the camera in the nest box. On the camera’s images, you will therefore see a central area that is lighter. This is the area where the LED is shining. This light can be detected by the camera but it is not visible to the naked eye. The amount of light emitted by the LED is weak and is not enough to see the nest box at night.

19 › How do I record a film?

Simply click on the ‘video’ button to start recording a film. To stop the recording, click on the ‘video’ button again. Photos and videos can be viewed in the gallery, under the camera’s control buttons.

20 › What is the ‘pause’ button in the camera’s interface for?

The ‘pause’ button is used to stop the image stream at a precise moment. The image is not however recorded. When you end the ‘pause’ mode, the image stream starts up again in real time.

21 › What is ‘movement detection’ mode for? How do I adjust these settings?

In ‘movement detection’ mode, the camera will automatically detect movement in the nest box. It will automatically take a photo each time a movement is detected. The photos are saved in the gallery. This mode is useful at the start of the season when the tits have not yet taken up residence in the nest box. Simply set this mode and regularly check the gallery to find out if birds have moved in to the nest box. To access the settings, select ‘movement detection’ mode and click on ‘camera settings’.

22 › What is ‘time lapse’ mode for? How do I adjust the interval time between two shots?

‘Time lapse’ mode is used to programme the camera so that it automatically takes photos at regular time intervals. This mode may be useful if you are not able to monitor your nest box every day (during the school holidays for example). To adjust the time interval between shots, select ‘time lapse’ mode then click on ‘camera settings’. The time interval (in seconds) will be displayed. When selecting your time interval, take into account the duration of your absence and do not forget that the camera can only store a limited number of photos.

23 › How do I change the text printed on each photo and video?

By default, the text XPERIBIRD is displayed on the image streams and therefore on the photos and videos that you take, along with the date and the time. Click on ‘camera settings’ to access the field where you can change this text. You might want to add, for example, the name of the school or the location of the nest box. Be careful not to modify the code attached to your text. This must remain unchanged for the text to be displayed on the images.

Questions concerning the birds

1 › What species are likely to nest in the XperiBIRD.be nest box?

The entrance hole and the type of nest boxes provided are mainly designed for blue tits and great tits, which are the target residents. The coal tit, willow tit, crested tit and the marsh tit, which are less common and more demanding, may however also be observed. Other passerine birds such as tree sparrows, house sparrows and nuthatches are also possible guests.    

Have a look at "Visitors to our nest boxes"

2 › If the birds nesting in our nest box are not tits, can we still enter our observation data? Will it be useful to the scientists at the museum of natural sciences?

Yes, absolutely! Even though the blue tit and great tit are the target species of the XperiBIRD.be project, the fact that the nest box is used by other bird species is perfectly valuable information. These more ‘exotic’ broods will in fact be good indicators of the presence of such species in the area, and of their nesting preferences.

3 › How do I tell the difference between tit species?

The two species most likely to take up residence in your XperiBIRD.be nest box are the great tit and the blue tit, but how can you distinguish between the two?

The blue tit’s bright blue cap (top of its head) will enable you to distinguish between it and its ‘great’ cousin (whose cap is black). Base your identification on this distinguishing feature, as the colour of its back and chest, its white cheek and its black stripe around the nape can easily be confused with those of the great tit.

If the colour in the image produced by the nest box camera is not of sufficient quality to identify the species with absolute certainty, you can try to observe the adults leaving and returning outside the nest box with your class. And if you upload a photo taken by your nest box camera in the corresponding section (nesting species), the ornithologists at the museum will easily be able to confirm your identification. 

Visitors to our nest boxes

4 › Why do birds nest in nest boxes?

 For some bird species, there is something of a housing crisis: there are no longer sufficient natural nesting sites. This is due to new techniques in farming and managing natural areas (less wildland, hedges, and residual trees). New building construction and renovation methods also leave fewer crevices, cavities and access to nesting sites. Tits and sparrows build their nests in small cavities, and they will willingly take up residence in nest boxes as a substitute if they are located in the right environment. 

5 › What if the nest box was not occupied?

Did you put up your nest box in winter following the installation instructions but the nest box did not attract any birds living in the vicinity? You may have more luck next year! If you had no luck in April–May, remember that some birds lay a second clutch in May–June... so be patient!

There are a few tips to make the nest box’s immediate environment more attractive in order to increase the chances of your XperiBIRD.be nest box becoming home to a clutch of birds. For example, you can take measures to foster biodiversity by planting native species of trees and bushes, growing a meadow or small fruit trees, creating a compost heap, etc. 

6 › When does nesting occur?

In spring, mainly between April and June. Some species, when the conditions are right, may have two clutches in one year.

7 › What is a tit’s nest made of?

It is mostly made of moss, as well as various other materials such as leaves and grass, and is topped with fur and feathers.

8 › What is the average number of eggs laid by each of the different species?

Species

Average number of eggs per clutch (min.-max)

Number of clutches

Blue tit

 8 - 13 (2 - 18)

1

Great tit

8 - 16 (3 - 18)

1-2

Nuthatch

6 - 8 (5-12)

1

House sparrow

3 - 5 (2-7)

2

9 › Why don’t the adults incubate the first eggs laid?

Passerine birds lay an average of one egg per day and incubation does not start until the clutch is complete. In fact, the chick only starts to develop in the egg when the right temperature is reached, so they will not start to develop until the eggs are incubated by the parents. By starting incubation once the last egg is laid, the ‘age’ difference between the first and the last egg hatched is reduced.

10 › Why do the adults sometimes leave the eggs alone in the nest?

The incubating bird sometimes leaves the nest to find food, defecate or clean themselves, that’s normal!

If the weather is bad, the adult will have to spend more time outside to find food, and in that case there is a risk that the eggs will become cold and the embryos will die. Even if you observe this happening, do not intervene under any circumstances: the adults may abandon their eggs permanently if they are disturbed. 

11 › When do the eggs hatch?

Approximately 14 days after incubation commences.

12 › Why may a certain number of eggs not hatch?

There can be several reasons for this:

  • Some of the eggs may not have been fertilised.
  • The embryo died during development (cold, etc.).
  • The chick did not manage to break out of the egg.
13 › What is reproductive success?

This ecological notion defines the capacity of an individual to reproduce. For example, it can be measured by the number of descendants that reach sexual maturity.

14 › What do adult tits feed their young?

Mainly caterpillars.

15 › What is that whitish thing that the adult removes from the nest?

This is a ‘faecal sac’, a whitish mucus membrane that contains the chicks’ faecal matter. It makes it easier for the adults to remove the chicks’ excretions from the nest.               

16 › What are a young bird’s chances of survival?

Winter mortality is very high among tits with more than 50% of young dying before their first birthday.

17 › One of the chicks died before being fledged, why? What should we do?

Even if the nest box offers the best possible conditions for the clutch’s success and has been placed in a perfect location, one or more young may die before they are fledged. Don’t feel guilty! There are many possible reasons for mortality among young birds in the nest (chicks and sometimes adults) and many are unforeseeable:

  • The adults may abandon the nest due to disturbances.
  • If one or both of the parents die (predators, car, etc.).
  • Disease, poisoning or parasites among the chicks.
  • Poor weather (rain, wind, cold temperatures, etc.).
  • Etc.

Do not intervene under any circumstances! Let nature run its course and enter your observations in your user area.

18 › How long does a tit live for?

On average, tits live for approximately 2 years, and in some rare cases 3 years.

19 › Why ring birds?

Bird ringing is a technique used to monitor and observe wild bird populations. The main aim is to find out more about bird wintering areas and migratory routes, and to monitor changes to these areas due to deteriorating natural habitats and climate change, for example. It also gives a better understanding of migration strategies. When do they leave? What direction do they take? Where do they go? Where do they stop en route to replenish their energy reserves? When do they leave for the nesting sites? This goes hand in hand with the study of their demographics. What are the causes of mortality? Do these differ by region or year? Do some couples produce more young than others? Is this associated with characteristics of the adults or rather the region, or a combination of the two?

Lastly, ringing is used to take various samples to study the circulation of pathogens, the concentration of pollutants (heavy metals, pesticides), and genetic relations (reproduction strategies, taxonomy, hybrids).

20 › Who can ring birds?

Bird ringing is mainly carried out by voluntary staff. They are certified by the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences (RBINS) in order to ensure the quality of the data collected. For further information, please visit the Belgian ringing centre’s website, BeBirds: http://odnature.naturalsciences.be/bebirds/en/

21 › How do we feed the birds? When and with what?

Birds should only be fed in very cold weather, when their usual food sources (insects and fruit) are scarce or covered by snow.

You can hang a bird feeder in your garden at the start of a prolonged frost, during heavy snowfall or during long rainy periods. Feeding birds should be extremely regular as they will quickly become used to coming to your feeder for their food and may sometimes travel long distances to get to it. If they find an empty feeder, they may not have enough energy reserves to find food sources elsewhere. 

You can fill your feeder with a mix of grains that you can buy in stores or make yourself. Blocks of fat are also very useful. Remember also to add a small birdbath so that the birds can quench their thirst.

Do not forget to clean the feeder regularly because wet grains will quickly become unfit for consumption.

Stop feeding them as soon as the weather improves.

22 › How do we make the environment near our nest box more attractive to birds?

If you would like to go one step further, the ideal thing would be to arrange your garden or the area around your nest box so that it can provide food for the birds throughout the year! As a preference, plant native plants, and try to provide as great a variety of species as possible. Greater plant diversity will provide grains and fruits and will attract an abundance of insects for the birds.

Questions concerning participative science and data encoding

1 › What is participative science?

Participative science or citizen science projects are research programmes that involve scientists and the participation of amateur volunteers. They are particularly used in the field of natural history, enabling non-professionals to make a contribution to advancing knowledge and inventories.

The Green Paper on Citizen Science: Citizen Science for Europe describes them as follows:

“... scientific research activities when citizens actively contribute to science either with their intellectual efforts or surrounding knowledge, or with their tools and resources. Participants provide experimental data and facilities for researchers, raise new questions and co-create a new scientific culture. While adding value, volunteers acquire new learning and skills, and deeper understanding of the scientific work in an appealing way. As a result of this open, networked and trans-disciplinary scenario, science-society-policy interactions are improved leading to a more democratic research based on evidence-informed decision-making."

Sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citizen_science

Green Paper on Citizen Science: Citizen Science for Europe - Towards a better society of empowered citizens and enhanced research, Socientize consortium, 2013 (PDF link).

2 › In what way is XperiBIRD.be a participative science project?

XperiBIRD.be is a participative science project because voluntary citizens collect the project’s data by observing nests and entering their observations on the website.

3 › Are there similar projects in Belgium or elsewhere in the world?

The number of projects that call for the assistance of citizens, few and far between just a few years ago, is increasing worldwide. In Belgium, there are the following projects:

  • Natagora carries out several census campaigns. The campaign "Devine qui vient manger au jardin" (Guess who’s feeding in the garden) asks private individuals to count the birds that visit their garden in winter. A similar campaign to count butterflies is held every first weekend in August. www.natagora.be
  • The network www.observations.be, set up by Aves and Natagora enables private individuals to encode their animal observations (birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians, and butterflies) across Belgium.
  • ‘Planet watch’ www.planetwatch.be is a project that involves schoolchildren in measuring air quality.

Elsewhere in the world, there is the American project NestWatch, for example. NestWatch is a national programme to monitor the reproductive biology of birds. Thousands of amateurs and professionals observe the nesting of dozens of bird species across the United States. The project aims to answer the following questions: When does reproduction take place? How many eggs are laid, how many hatch and how many young survive? The data collected is used to study the current state of nesting bird populations and how this changes over time, taking into account climate change, the deterioration or loss of habitats, the growth of urban areas, and the introduction of non-native plants. http://nestwatch.org/

4 › What data is collected under the XperiBIRD.be project?

The XperiBIRD.be project collects the following data: When does tit reproduction occur? How many eggs are laid, how many hatch, how many survive? Data concerning the environment (location of the nest box, height, type of habitat) are also encoded.

5 › Who studies the data collected by the participating schools?

The data collected is analysed by our team of scientists at the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences.

6 › What is the data collected used for?

All this data is used to study the reproductive success of the species concerned and to monitor their nesting habits over several years. With nest boxes located across Belgium and in different habitats, we can compare the data collected according to the environment around the nest box.

7 › I did not see all the eggs being laid/hatching, what data should I encode?

You should only ever encode the data that you have actually observed! If, for example, you did not monitor the nest box for a few days and you suddenly observe 6 eggs in your nest box, note the date of your observation in the form, against the ‘6 eggs’ field. The same goes for the number of hatched eggs. Only ever give your actual observations.

8 › How can the scientists ensure that the data collected via a participative science project are rigorous and accurate?

The first step for the scientists is to clearly define the data collection protocol. The instructions sent to participants must be as clear as possible to avoid encoding errors slipping into the form filled in by the schools. Next, participants are reminded of the general instructions for scientific practice: ‘do not enter data that has not been observed’, ‘adopt a critical mindset’, ‘check whether results are realistic’, etc. and the teachers are asked to follow them scrupulously. The pupils and their teachers can also contract the XperiBIRD.be team if they are unsure about anything. Finally, the photos and videos encoded at certain key points in the data encoding form allow certain information to be validated. The XperiBIRD.be team will pay particular attention to encoded data that ‘deviate from the norm’.

Questions concerning the website

1 › Can I have a login and password if I am not taking part in the project?

No, the log in and data entry area is reserved for schools and private individuals who have a connected nest box. If you would like to view the photos and videos taken in the nest boxes across Belgium, you can do so by clicking on ‘Nest watch’ or visiting the blog.

2 › I am taking part in the project, I have received my nest box and my login but I cannot log in, what should I do?

If you are encountering problems logging in, contact IT Support using the form on the log in page. 

3 › How do I share the photos and videos taken by my camera?

Before being able to share the images (photos or videos) captured by the camera, you will need to download them from the camera’s SD card to your computer.  

There are two options:

  • Either upload the ‘photos/videos’ taken in your observation encoding form, they will be visible in the "Media" section of this website.
  • Or publish them via the blog along with a brief description. They will then be published in the ‘Blog’ section and accessible to anyone visiting the website.
4 › Are the photos and videos uploaded to my ‘user’ area visible to the general public?

Yes. They can be viewed via the interactive nest-watching map. Simply select the school of your choosing to access all the data encoded and media (photos and videos) uploaded.

5 › Can we read all the blogs published by a particular school?

Yes. Simply select the school of your choosing on the interactive map (on the ‘Database’ page) and select the ‘Blog’ option.

6 › I would like to get in touch with the project team, what do I do?

Contact us using the contact form under the ‘Contact’ tab (at the top right of the Menu bar), and we will get back to you as soon as possible. 

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