Project promotion materials:

Data collections can be seen on:

Software is available at:

Programming language(s):

PHP, Javascript, bash, R, CakePHP, Mapserver

Project Members:

Marianne Brown (Project Manager,

Daniel Baird (Developer,

Robert Pyke (Developer,

Tom Dalling (Developer,

ANDS Contact:

Stefanie Kethers (

Project Status:


Bird Species Distribution Project

James Cook University

Project Description:

Edgar aims to show current and future species ranges for Australian birds under multiple climate change scenarios. However, many steps must be completed before we can model future species distributions at a continental scale:
1. Collect bird observations across Australia;
2. Collate the data into one big database;
3. Vet the data;
4. Model the relationship between bird occurrence records and the climate in which they were observed; and
5. Project the model through space and time.

Birdlife Australia, museums, research organisations and institutions, and individuals have been recording bird observations throughout time. The Atlas of Living Australia (ALA) has provided the platform to collate observation data in one big continental-scale database.

Edgar displays the almost 18 million ALA bird observation records potentially suitable for modelling on a map. In doing this, it provides an interface for users to vet these displayed records. The vetting information is then pushed back to ALA where it is included in their data store thus removing the need for re-vetting of the data for future projects. Given the newly vetted records, Edgar then automatically models reclassified data each time records are modified, and creates maps of future projections of the species distribution. Edgar provides an animation of the species distribution changes from present to the year 2085 so that users can view the shift in species range.

This is a giant leap in communication of the value of models for projecting likely impacts of climate change. When users can see a clear relationship between the data that is used to create the model, and the model itself, they clearly understand that climate change can impact on the available climate space of a species, and therefore the range of the species.

Edgar allows scientists, the public, and policy-makers to see what is likely to happen to climate suitability for a species into the future and can therefore assist them in making decisions regarding conservation and climate change action.

Research Champion:

Dr Jeremy VanDerWal,
Centre for Tropical Biodiversity and Climate Change,
James Cook University

Data Type:

Input Data:
Species occurrence records from ALA, CTBCC and Birds Australia for Australian birds.

Output Data:
A set of species distribution maps - current and predicted over a number of time intervals under a range of climate change scenarios.

High Level Software Functionality:

1. Efficient management of data cleansing of bird observation records
Traditionally, data cleaning is carried out by sending maps of occurrence records (paper or PDF) to selected experts who then mark on the maps those records that are not suitable for use in distribution modelling of wild populations. This information then needs to be collated by the researcher and applied to the data set. This is a laborious process and very time consuming. Also, since the results aren’t always fed back to the original data holder, the next person who gets the dataset from the original source will need to go through the process again. This project makes the vetting process much more efficient both for the researcher and the vettors as they can see other experts input and not have to provide feedback for records that have already been indicated as invalid. Also, with this project’s links to the nationally recognized data provider for species occurrence records, the vetting feedback is now preserved and available to others.

2. Creation and distribution of projected distribution modelling data
For researchers, conservationists, or environmental managers interested in a particular bird species, gaining an understanding of possible impacts due to climate change is important. The Edgar site will continually update its modelling output as new observation data is available from ALA and make the information easily available via a website.

3. Dissemination of research to general public
Researchers often have problems making their research available in an attractive and easy-to-digest format for the general public. The Edgar project has developed an attractive and easy-to-use web platform that can be used to visualise research data. The code developed as part of this project can be easily adapted to a range of other research areas where the output of the work is map and point data.