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Supercomputer, birdwatchers to join forces

New York -- A database with millions of bird sightings from around the world needs help -- and is about to get it courtesy of a U.S supercomputer, officials say.

The eBird project, run by Steve Kelling of the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology in New York, together with the National Audubon Society in New York, has more than 48 million observations, 10 million of them entered in 2010 alone, an article published online by the journal Nature said Wednesday.

"The challenge now is to try to do something meaningful with all these data," Kelling said.

Help is one the way in the form of 100,000 computing hours on the U.S. National Science Foundation's TeraGrid supercomputing network, the journal article says.

Intensive data analysis using the supercomputer network will turn the scattered observations of each bird species into a predictive model of its movements, Kelling hopes.

Ecological problems are a new frontier for supercomputing, says John Cobb, a principal investigator for TeraGrid at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee.

The vast computing power of TeraGrid could provide opportunity to turn the work of many amateur birders into a nuanced portrait of how species migrate, he says.

"It is a wonderful story about how they have used all those people who are enthusiastic about birdwatching and made a scientifically significant data set," Cobb said.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI).

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