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Open Science: Cooperation of Ornithologists of Lviv and Melitopol for the Preservation of Scientific Heritage

Program of the Non-Governmental Organization Western Ukrainian Ornithological Society. Visualizing Ukrainian scientific heritage Today, two Ukrainian centers of ornithological science, the Western Ukrainian Ornithological Society in Lviv (ZUOT) and the Azov-Black Sea Ornithological Working Group (AChORG) in Melitopol, which have exist and cooperated for more than 35 years, have accumulated huge archives of scientific information. Some of the materials in Melitopol have already been lost, and ZUOT archives may be destroyed as a result of a missile strike at any time. Registration of both centers in GBIF, the Global Biodiversity Data Network, for the publication of scientific data, will allow them to enter into open scientific circulation. Given the great popularity of the GBIF network, clear rules for quoting information and the great attention of scientists around the world to events in Ukraine, the implementation of the project will increase the visibility of Ukrainian researchers and research in the world.

The project executors will be ornithologists from the east and south of Ukraine. Some had to leave from the combat zone, others stayed under occupation. In both cases, people are in a difficult moral and financial situation. The ability to do what you know and love and what will increase the visibility of Ukraine on the scientific world stage can be a significant support for scientists.


The project’s primary focus is at preserving the great scientific heritage accumulated in the two largest ornithological centers of Ukraine: the Western Ukrainian Ornithological Society in Lviv (ZUOT) and the Azov-Black Sea Ornithological Working Group (AChORG) in Melitopol, and at empowering Ukrainian scientists.

Relevance and Importance  

Today, the research scope of one of the two largest ornithological centers of Ukraine, the Azov-Black Sea Ornithological Working Group (AChORG), which includes about a hundred professional ornithologists and amateurs of 6 coastal regions of Ukraine, is almost completely occupied. The vast majority of colleagues went to Ukraine-controlled territory. However, they lost the opportunity to conduct monitoring studies that have been continuously conducted since 1985. Some of the non-digital materials were probably lost when the enemies looted the AChORG office in Melitopol located on the premises of the Interdepartmental Azov-Black Sea Ornithological Station.  

Since 1985, the Western Ukrainian Ornithological Society in Lviv, that includes more than a hundred ornithologists from almost the entire country, has accumulated a large number of observation materials from the West of Ukraine (the archive has more than a hundred field diaries and archival files with track questionnaires), including the Bank of Bird Nests of Ukraine (more than 20,000 questionnaires) and the Ukrainian Ornithofaunistic Commission (more than 1.5 thousand questionnaires). These ZUOT archives can be destroyed by a missile strike at any time.  

Both organizations bring together professional ornithologists and amateurs, and have been cooperating for more than 35 years. The materials accumulated during this time constitute a great and irreplaceable scientific heritage. Due to critical government underfunding, the Ukrainian ornithological scientific community does not have full opportunities to digitize their long-standing research and publish it in the world's leading scientific sources.  

The transfer (digitization) of accumulated materials to the Global Biodiversity Data Network will allow them to enter the world scientific circulation, thus making them available to scientists around the world. Given the great popularity of the GBIF network, clear rules for quoting information and the increased attention of scientists around the world to events in Ukraine, this will increase the visibility of Ukrainian researchers and research in the world, and protect them from destruction. Most ornithologists from the South left for Ukraine-controlled territory, some still stay under occupation. In both cases, the situation is difficult and they need support. We want to support our colleagues morally and financially for two months, in a way that will benefit them and the scientific community of Ukraine and the world.  In fact, the project will be a pilot for two months. During this time, the team intends to register both ornithological centers as publishers on the GBIF portal, and 4 ornithologists who are in a destitute situation caused by the war will begin publishing archival data.

The database was filled by ornithologists from Izium (currently lives in Kharkiv), Donetsk (currently lives in the city of Tatarbunary in Odesa region, where he moved from Mariupol after the war started), and Melitopol (has not left). This work allowed colleagues, at least for a short time, to distract themselves from the fears of war and do an important job of saving scientific materials and making them public for the world community. The feedback from these colleagues and the Ukrainian ornithological community on the implementation of our project was very positive. In parallel, the training of members of societies takes place, after which they will be able to independently publish their data on behalf of the respective publishers. When Ukrainian researchers enter almost 20,000 records into the most popular database among scientists in the world, during the war, and the bombing of peaceful cities, and rolling blackouts, it will repeatedly testify to the world our invincibility and faith in victory.

Changes Entailed by the Project

  • Strengthening the cooperation of two NGOs from Melitopol and Lviv;
  • Support for scientists and scholars who found themselves in destitution because of the war;
  • Promotion of Ukrainian science in the world;
  • The increase in the citation index of Ukrainian scientists.


The information published within the framework of the project (almost 20,000 entries where each record is a separate observation with a date and geolocation) can be used to create new objects of the nature reserve fund of Ukraine, to write generalizing scientific monographs on the distribution and number of birds in different periods of their stay, such as nesting stay, winter stay, or migration stay, both in Ukraine and in the world.  

The best confirmation of the relevance and use of this information will be the appearance of a citation indicator near each data set, which will mean that these data were referred to in an article published in a ranking journal, but not enough time has passed for such an indicator. On the other hand, it can be concluded that there is a general request for datasets published within the framework of the project, due to indirect analytical indicators. Therefore, for example, the downloading rates directly from the GBIF portal of the whole dataset or part thereof are as follows: the ZUOT dataset on waterfowl and amphibians – 105 downloads, the dataset on nests and egg laying of linnet – 41 downloads.

The AChORG datasets, of which 16 have been published but are smaller in volume, have a total of 550 downloads, with 19 to 110 downloads for each individual dataset. Another interesting and indirect indicator is the number of transitions directly to the GBIF database page and the data set on links provided in the posts on the project progress on the ZUOT FB. Due to the fact that most URL shortening services store links and track the number of entries through them, we learned that the ZUOT FB database itself was visited 41 times, and the AChORG database – 23 times. Undoubtedly, the published data sets are in demand among the target audiences. Most importantly, all the project features, such as the publication of scientific archival data during the war in order to preserve it, and the fact that the project employs scientists who were significantly affected by the war, and the fact that the fund is not “foreign” but national – all of it provoked an unexpected interest in the project among the professional biological community. The project is also being actively discussed outside of ornithological circles.

  • An online seminar was conducted training to work with GBIF databases;
  • Registration of cells in the Global Biodiversity Data Network (GBIF);
  • 11,012 entries were made from ZUOT, AChORG – 8,208 entries;

Ukrainian scientific heritage was made visible in the scientific digital space. Scientists who found themselves in a difficult situation because of the war were supported. The morale of colleagues who could be distracted from the worries of war during the work was improved.  

The cooperation of two NGOs from Melitopol and Lviv has been strengthened. The way is open for the publication of personal data for all more than 200 members of the two societies and all ornithologists of Ukraine who wish to do so. The data of ornithological observations from the territory of Ukraine will become available to the whole world. The published data will be used to develop environmental projects, to substantiate new territories of the nature reserve fund of Ukraine, to create lists of rare species of individual regions and subsequent Red Books of Ukraine and reports on the fauna of birds of territories of different ranks (settlements, districts, regions, countries, the world). The citation index of Ukrainian scientists will be raised at the world level. The memoryof amateur ornithologists and professional ornithologists who have already died (some were killed during hostilities and in action) was honored through the publication of their observations.

Synergy: this year, two teams implemented projects with the support from ZMIN : the podcast "At a distance. With Melitopol in the heart"and "Open science: cooperation of ornithologists of Lviv and Melitopol for the preservation of scientific heritage, ZUOT and AChORG."

Target Audience

  • Zoologists
  • Conservationists
  • Employees of institutions of the nature reserve fund of Ukraine
  • Employees of regional departments of ecology and the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources of Ukraine
  • Ornithologists amateurs, beardwalkers and all who are interested in nature.
Meeting of the Azov-Black Sea Ornithological Working Group, 2018, Katranka village, Tuzla estuaries

Sustainability. Scaling up. Continuity

Some ornithologists from AChORG have already filled the GBIF database with personal observations. This has brought them great dividends in the form of quoting their data in publications that are included in the most prestigious international scientometric databases, which is desirable and necessary for any scientist. The GBIF system  does not allow individuals to personally publish materials; this can only be done on behalf of the registered publisher.  

The goal of every scientist is to publish their research, which proves the importance of their work. Publishing your materials in GBIF is highly desirable, and now available to everyone. The team will disseminate information about this opportunity among all scientists of Ukraine through social networks, pages of societies, speeches and reports at conferences, and scientific publications. Everyone will be able to prepare their own personal data. The task of the societies will be to find funds for the collection of materials of more than two dozen, now deceased, professional ornithologists, whose materials were transferred to the archives of the ZUOT and AChORG.

The project is implemented by the NGO Western Ukrainian Ornithological Society thanks to financial support from ZMIN, as part of the grant program 2022.

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