Biologists ditch traditional methods in favor of new record keeping app

August 27, 2013 by Sydney B. Donaldson
Biologists ditch traditional methods in favor of new record keeping app
A team of ASU professors at CTI have developed a mobile application that allows their record keeping with reptiles to be more accurate and faster than traditional paper methods.

Accurate sampling methods are vital to any scientific study, but for researchers estimating wildlife populations, data errors can occur while recording measurements from live animals in the field, and again when data are entered into a database. A team of Arizona State University professors in the College of Technology and Innovation (CTI) have developed a mobile application that allows their record keeping with reptiles to be more accurate and faster than traditional paper methods.

The idea of developing an was suggested by assistant professor Heather Bateman, along with Timothy Lindquist, professor, and Richard Whitehouse, lecturer. Undergraduate and graduate students at CTI worked with Bateman, Lindquist and Whitehouse to develop the app.

Part of Bateman's research includes studying and other by using capture-mark-recapture approaches, which involves capturing an animal in the field, recording identifiable traits of that animal and immediately releasing it back into its . This process calls for tracking to be done on-site, usually handwritten, and then information is entered into a database upon returning to a computer.

Because each animal is given a unique code when being handled in the field, the researchers need to be certain they don't accidently give two animals the same code. Before the app was developed, the unique codes were stored on a datasheet, requiring the technician handling the animal to mark out the used code. Problems arose when technicians neglected to cross out the code on the paper and accidentally assigned two or more animals with the same code. Oftentimes these errors were not realized until entering data back at the lab – long after the animal was released.

"We realized this was a problem for us, and probably a problem for anyone who collects data in the field," Bateman said. "Not having a way to track electronically while on site meant we couldn't immediately check for errors or duplications."

The app, developed for mobile devices on iOS and Andriod platforms, is a digital method of tracking this information and automatically exports raw data to a computer where results can be analyzed. The user can record the same information on their smartphone they would in a traditional recording method. The mobile app uses pre-populated dropdown boxes and data proofing steps to guide the user through a process to enter information about an animal's species, unique code, body length, mass and sex. Bateman says while comparing methods, student users recorded and entered data 50 percent faster and were more accurate while using the app over traditional data-entry methods.

Although there are data entry apps available, and even apps for wildlife biologists, Bateman says this app is the first developed for recording wildlife information with the capability of producing unique codes and querying a database of animal histories stored on a mobile device.

"We are so excited we have found a method that works and that reduces errors," Bateman said.

Currently, the app is unavailable for download, but Bateman and her team are hoping to collaborate with other teams who would be able to bring this app to the App Store and Google Play.

The full story of Bateman's app development and findings has been published this week in the Wildlife Society Bulletin.

Explore further: Apple's App Store review process missed Georgia Tech Jekyll

More information: … 002/wsb.322/abstract

Related Stories

Apple's App Store review process missed Georgia Tech Jekyll

August 19, 2013

( —Georgia Tech researchers figured out a way to bypass Apple's safeguards in allowing new apps on the App Store. Apple adopts review mechanisms to ensure that only approved apps can run on iOS devices and enjoys ...

Georgia Tech uncovers iOS security weaknesses

July 31, 2013

Researchers from the Georgia Tech Information Security Center (GTISC) have discovered two security weaknesses that permit installation of malware onto Apple mobile devices using seemingly innocuous applications and peripherals, ...

Finland team has bed sensor to measure sleep

August 10, 2013

( —A $149 consumer version of a sleep-tracking system, consisting of both sensor and smartphone app, is aiming for funding via a campaign on the crowdfunding platform, Indiegogo. Finland-based Beddit on Wednesday ...

Butterflies for your phone

October 8, 2012

Fluttering onto a smartphone near you soon, a field guide to the butterflies of Northern California, created by UC Davis students.

Recommended for you

New discovery: Common jellyfish is actually two species

November 21, 2017

University of Delaware professor Patrick Gaffney and alumnus Keith Bayha, a research associate with the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, have determined that a common sea nettle jellyfish is actually two ...

Male dolphins offer gifts to attract females

November 21, 2017

Researchers from The University of Western Australia have captured a rare sexual display: evidence of male humpback dolphins presenting females with large marine sponges in an apparent effort to mate.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.