Subject: Re: CBC Accuracy (the regional editors view)
Date: Dec 08 12:14:16 1998
From: Mike Patterson - mpatters at

On CBC accuracy from your friendly regional coordinator

Accuracy and precision are hard things to come by and the more individual
data gathers one includes in a project the more both of these things will

Volunteers can take reliable data. There are even some studies that suggest
that volunteers take more consistently reliable data (Maine, 1992) than
folks who get paid to do it. But to be reliable, the volunteers must be
properly trained and properly monitored. Consistency of training across a
continent is probably more than we can reasonably expect, but I think
consistency of procedure for any particular count is possible from year to
year and this is were the count compiler comes into play.

Some CBC's treat count day as a social event or a fund raising opportunity.
Many have developed procedural bad habits over the years. Far too many
untrained folks (some of whom bird only one day a year) end up out in the
field. None of these things are necessarily bad as long as (and this is
statement is going to seem weird) as long as they are consistently adhered

Any count that produces data by internally constant procedures will produce
reliable trend data for that count. In a perfect world, all CBC's would
use exactly the same procedures; have the same numbers of participant, all
equally well trained and the data would be absolutely comparable across
the continent.

In reality, we should celebrate our capacity to get as many folks into
the field over a two week period to get the snap shot that we get.

Some procedural constants would be nice, however...

1. Mixed experience levels in each team. Participants of limited
experience need some kind of mentoring.

2. Details should be required for ALL unusual sighting even those
made by the elite. Holding participants accountable for their
data will tend to ensure accuracy and make the data more long
lived and go a long way toward mitigating the single worst bad
habit many counts have.

3. Share your expertise. There are many little counts out there
struggling to get enough participants. Volunteer to an extra

Maine, Neal. 1992. _Volunteers and Natural Resource Monitoring_.
An Approach to Improving Decision Making in Wetland Restoration and
Creation (EPA/600/R-92/150, A.J.Hairston, ed.) USEPA, Environmental
Research Lab, Corvallis OR.

Mike Patterson "Change comes one funeral at a time"
Astoria, OR Doc Hatfield-in response to the question: Why
mpatters at don't more cattlemen choose to use a proven
method of range management that is more
economically AND environmentally sound.