Citizen science platform, nQuire, which has been developed by The Open University has announced its next mission. Created by Dr Andy Morris, Staff Tutor and Senior Lecturer in Geography at the OU, ‘Starling Murmuration’ explores one of winter’s greatest spectacles, by asking the public to help document sightings.
When a large flock of birds, most commonly starlings fly together, moving and changing direction at the same time it’s called a murmuration. The starling is a familiar bird across much of Europe and whilst it is still common, its numbers have steadily declined across Europe since the 1980s. The reasons for this are not entirely clear, but the most popular theories suggest that it is a mixture of habitat loss and decline of its staple food of ground-dwelling invertebrates.
Developed by the OU, nQuire is a platform to help people throughout the UK discover more about the world around them. Available to all, participants can take part in two types of nQuire mission – confidential missions and social missions.
Confidential missions are surveys to find out more about yourself. The overall results will be published on the Quire platform, but we will never show or share your personal data.
Social missions are open explorations of your world. You can see and discuss each contribution, and the data is available for anyone to view and download.
Each mission has a ‘big question’ that can only be answered with your help. You will be given instructions about what to do and feedback on your contribution once you complete the mission. The Starling Murmuration mission asks you to share photos and locations of your murmuration sightings, to gain a better understanding of where and when these spectacles are taking place.
Dr Andy Morris commented:
“Watching the spectacle of starling murmurations has become increasingly popular in recent years and in some well-established locations crowds of up to 1000 spectators have been known. Equally a starling murmuration can be something that an individual comes across quite spontaneously.
Nquire is an ideal survey platform for finding out where and when people are watching murmurations, allowing us to geolocate entries across the UK and Ireland and gain a sense of geographical scale and possible patterns of movement. But we also want to capture information about the social context in which people are watching murmurations as we know this can often be quite a social event with family or friends and many people like to take photos or make films to share online.
Many people that go to watch starling murmurations may not consider themselves to be ‘bird watchers’ even though they return quite regularly, so we hope to find out more about peoples’ motivations for visiting and what this might tell us about our changing relationship with a species which has often been seen as a pest.”
The Starling Murmuration mission will run until 1 March 2020.
Find out more
Read OpenLearn articles, Nature, space and the shifting geographies of human-starling relations also by Dr Andy Morris