Our Story 

Since 1994, Journey North has evolved to take advantage of new technology and emerging environmental challenges. Today, climate change and habitat loss threaten many migratory species. Journey North will continue to evolve to meet these challenges.

Journey North began in 1994 with founder Elizabeth Howard’s vision of combining the emerging technology of the internet and the interconnectedness of the natural world. Howard’s fascination with species migration and how the changing seasons impacted plant life and animal movement inspired her to find a way to share this with others. She wanted to create a program for sharing the amazing journey of migratory species and then to offer a way for a general audience to track these phenomena across North America. This is where the budding technology of the internet became a key component of Journey North. The new technological developments were a “hand in glove” fit for Journey North’s goals. The program taught people about nature and allowed them to watch their favorite species journey across the continent during migration. 

In the late 1990s, Journey North transformed again by creating a platform for participants to submit observational data. No longer did volunteers need to send in their observational reports via the postal service; a new system allowed volunteers to submit their sightings from the comfort of their homes. Today, the migration story is a community effort, told by thousands of volunteers and displayed using real-time mapping visualizations of wildlife migration. Gone are the hand-created still-image maps. 

Journey North is constantly evolving. In 2019, the Journey North program was acquired by the University of Wisconsin–Madison Arboretum. This move represented an exciting crossroads for Journey North. The UW–Madison Arboretum focuses on ecologically sustainable relationships between people and the land through integrative, innovative, and collaborative science, stewardship, education, and public engagement. Citizen science programs, like Journey North, blend these approaches perfectly. Journey North is an intercontinental program that brings together people from across North America. 

Journey North looks to the next 25 years with excitement. We believe that everyone can participate in creating knowledge about the natural world. We remain committed to increasing participation in our migration tracking program and encouraging the use of volunteer generated data in external research projects. 

Join us in protecting migratory species.