Our experience supporting environmental research over the last four years has given us an appreciation for how unpredictable fieldwork can be.
When you’re working with a standardized taxonomy and protocol, compiling spreadsheets and databases is pretty straightforward. You have columns that hold all of your data for each row of records, and you add more rows as you collect more data. Each column corresponds to a type of data that is collected for each record. When you have to build a system that can handle any taxonomy and protocol that your partners can dream up, it gets harder!
Traditionally, making this work meant that you needed to force everyone to follow the same protocol and use the same taxonomy. That way you can use the same table and list of species for everyone. More modern systems now allow you more flexibility so long as you lock in your protocol before you start collecting data. This provides more flexibility by creating a table or custom set of parameters for each project, but it is very difficult to make changes to the underlying protocol or taxonomy.
We work with our partners before the start of every project to try to get everything perfect before their teams go into the field. Despite everyone’s best efforts, we haven’t had a single project in the last four years where everything went just as expected. This challenged us to engineer a system that would allow our partners to make changes to their taxonomies, protocols, and data while the project is underway. This groundbreaking technology would directly benefit our partners and allow more researchers to start collecting their data digitally.
Today we are announcing the release of Project Spooky Action. Albert Einstein was famously skeptical of quantum theory and dubbed the phenomenon known as quantum entanglement “spooky action at a distance.” Basically, an entangled particle instantly changes when its partner changes, even when they’re light-years apart. If you’re interested in learning more about the origin of our code name, click here for a great video explaining the physics.
While we don’t use any quantum entanglement in our solution, we picked the code name because our update now allows you to dynamically update your research and remotely manage what’s being used in the field. This is a huge deal for navigating the ever changing landscape of fieldwork!
Remotely Managed Protocols and Taxonomies
Our new update allows project managers to dynamically update their research protocols while research is underway:
- Add, remove, and modify species from your taxonomy
- Make changes to your field biologists’ data during QC and propagate those updates to their tablets
- Change your observation and metadata questions
- Switch to a different tablet and access all of your past observations and metadata
Each time your team closes and opens the app, their projects and taxonomies are synchronized with the server.
Case Study – Millersville University
Professor Aaron Haines leads the Applied Conservation Lab at Millersville University where he is training the next generation of migration counters. Working with Dr. Laurie Goodrich and Hawk Mountain Santuary, Dr. Haines and his students have established a new hawk count site at their university.
After beginning the research, their team inquired about conducting a sub-study on local species in addition to their research on migratory raptors.
Normally, modifying an ongoing study wouldn’t be possible, but using our new functionality, we were able to update their taxonomy, update their existing observations, and synchronize it with their tablet without skipping a beat!
You can see Millersville’s data here: