The ‘Vogel het uit!’ project has won the 2013 Academic Year Prize for the best communication plan for scientific research. The project aims to involve people who enjoy the outdoors in a high-tech study of bird behaviour.
‘Vogel het uit!’ was proposed by an interdisciplinary team led by researcher Judy Shamoun-Baranes and Prof. Willem Bouten, both of the UvA’s Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED). Secretary of State Sander Dekker from the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science presented the team with the €100,000 award during the finale on 23 October. The award money will allow the research team to carry out its proposed project.
Jury president Paul Schnabel, former director of the Netherlands Institute for Social Research, was particularly enthusiastic about the fascination the project generates: ‘What we enjoyed was the idea that as a layman you might not be able to distinguish between two birds of the same kind, but this research shows that birds are also individuals that have their own patterns and behaviour.’ The jury also praised the quality and advanced state of the project, clearly demonstrating that it is a viable one. ‘It has involved lengthy preparations, is well detailed and will produce new and exciting data.’
‘We observe the fascinating lives of birds from a completely new perspective and want to share that with people and get them involved in our research,’ explains team captain Shamoun. The project stems from the bird studies using GPS backpacks developed by the University of Amsterdam (www.UvA-BiTS.nl) that have been running for the past five years.
Researchers like Shamoun and Bouten have been following the behaviour of individual birds from minute to minute, yet many questions remain unanswered. The project plan describes how interested members of the public can follow the daily activities of these birds and, as ‘field workers’, provide supplementary information about the locations the birds have visited, something not registered by a GPS tag. Participants can use a special app on their smartphone to navigate to these places and share their observations (for example, through photos and videos of the landscape). In doing so, they will also be making an important contribution to scientific research at the UvA.
The Academic Year Prize is a Dutch prize awarded annually to the most original and innovative communication plan for making a scientific research project more accessible to a broader public. The Prize was initiated in 2005 by, among others, the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research, the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences and the leading NRC Handelsblad newspaper.
The latest developments can be followed on the Facebook page of ‘Vogel het uit!’.