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Giving flight to expertise

China Daily | Updated: 2024-01-27 10:03

Barred Forest Falcon.[Photo provided by Mei Jian/For China Daily]

Mei Jian's daughter helped him design the logo for the Bird ID Master (dongniao in Chinese) WeChat mini program. However, the original logo has been lost, and he can only remember the silhouette in the icon. Regardless, his Bird ID Master mini program has helped birdwatchers identify countless birds.

Born in Sichuan province, Mei now lives in Canada. He graduated from the Computer Science Department of Sun Yat-sen University in 1992 and worked as a programmer. Encouraged by friends, he began bird-watching in 2016 and developed a fondness for bird photography. However, he found that he was occasionally uncertain what species he had photographed.

"Given technological advancements, relying solely on bird field guides seemed outdated," he says.

By then, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology had released the Merlin Bird ID app, which catered to users who know English. However, it lacked comprehensive support for Chinese, as well as accurate identification of bird species in China. After a two-hour ordeal spent leafing through books to verify one particular bird, he decided to design a program himself.

"Enthusiasm for this kind of venture is vital," Mei emphasizes.

He had to acquire new skills and surmount a number of challenges while designing the program. In January 2017, he stumbled upon a bird-classification page online, but it proved to be full of errors. Consequently, he took the ornithology course offered by Cornell University, and grappled with unfamiliar terminology, learning step by step.

The mini program follows the classification system used by the IOC World Bird List from the World Bird Names website. During the course of his journey, Mei realized that many bird species on the site were missing their Chinese names. He played an active role in adding them and thanks to his efforts, Chinese bird names now rank second in completeness after English on the site.

In September 2017, the inaugural version of BirdID Master was launched on WeChat, and it has been continually upgraded and refined since.

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