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Employees of EMC Corp. have been spending time in Maine to count birds, part of a data-driven effort to better understand climate change.
Employees of EMC Corp. have been spending time in Maine to count birds, part of a data-driven effort to better understand climate change.

To kick off a collaboration with the Earthwatch Institute and the Schoodic Institute at Acadia National Park, EMC pulled workers away from their computer screens and sent them to Mount Desert Island in Maine recently for four days of “birding.”

“We kicked off the retreat just talking about what nature means to each of the participants,” said Alyssa Caddle, principal program manager in EMC Corp.’s sustainability office, who was on the team that traveled to Acadia.

But the excursion was more than a breath of fresh air for employees who normally spend their days looking at pixels instead of at pipers. EMC, Earthwatch, and Schoodic hope that counting seabird species might reveal clues about future climate changes.

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“Ornithology is a really good place to start because birds are dependent on food sources in the plant and insect world,” said Kathrin Winkler, EMC’s chief sustainability officer. “As climate change alters light, precipitation, and temperature, it affects the ecosystem.”

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Caddle and her colleagues put in long days on the rocky shores of Maine.

“It was basically 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day where we’d be doing a combination of field work and then coming back into a classroom environment to enter our bird counts into a database,” she said.

“The larger tripods [photo at left] are scopes for identifying birds after they are initially spotted with binoculars. That is part of the seabird watch program where we were counting migrating seabirds and trying to identify the species.”

It takes more than a long weekend’s worth of bird tallies to draw meaningful conclusions about climate change, of course. EMC’s chief contribution will be helping Earthwatch and Schoodic analyze vast quantities of data collected over time.

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“As a company that focuses on data analytics, we believe big data can play a role in helping to understand, mitigate, and adapt to climate change,” Winkler said.

Got a cool workspace or know of one? Tell us at yourstoryhere@globe.com.