Smog and wildfire smoke aren’t just hard on human lungs — they can be harmful for birds, too.
A new initiative created by UCLA and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County will use community science to learn more about the effects, with a goal of developing strategies to help birds cope with wildfires, air pollution and climate change. Project Phoenix, which takes flight today, will bring together ecologists, atmospheric scientists and everyday people from throughout California.
Participants can volunteer as little as 10 minutes a week to document the behavior of birds in their neighborhoods. The data they collect will be analyzed by a team of researchers to gain insights into how birds adapt during different types of smoke exposure.
Previous research has examined specific bird species’ migration patterns during smoke events, but Project Phoenix is the first comprehensive study of how wildfire smoke and urban air pollution interact to affect birds’ behavior. Ecology researchers will collaborate with atmospheric scientists to differentiate between the effects of urban air pollution and wildfire smoke using satellite data and computer models that predict the concentration of air pollution.