Biologists Use Touch Inspect to Inspect Penguins

The Magellanic Penguin Project is a joint project between the Wildlife Conservation Society, the Province of Chubut, and the University of Washington that was launched in 1982 in Punto Tombo, Argentina.  The project trains the next generation of conservation biologists, gathers the scientific information needed to inform decision-makers and helps in protection and management of Magellanic penguin colonies.

A small group of researchers under the direction of Dr. Dee Boersma, Professor of Biology at the University of Washington, are following individual penguins, monitoring the colony and developing the data needed to plan effective conservation efforts, as well as to try and understand the importance of penguins as indicators of global climate change and the health of the environment.

In order to collect this data, a geospatially intelligent, multimedia-capable data collection application was needed that could run on rugged field computers.  One of the biggest challenges they faced was the vast amount of data they collected that then had to be manually entered into their database.

“Up until now, we have collected 6 months worth of data in field notebooks every season. Since the project’s inception, we’ve banded  55,000 penguins, measured 25,000 eggs, and measured 174,019 chicks.  We had 1,838 data books in our lab as of Spring, 2008”, said researcher Eleanor Lee.

The team chose Touch Inspect , a geospatially intelligent inspection and data collection tool with multi-media capabilities, to help unburden them from their massive data collection process.  It will allow them to gather data in the field and have it upload to their database via the internet, which they say will be much more efficient than their current system .

“All of the data we collect is handwritten into field books, and then manually entered into a database back at the University. It takes as long to enter the data as it does to collect it. So you can imagine just how much time, effort and money we’ll save by entering the data electronically in the field. We’ll save 6 months of time and the salaries of two data enterers. Not to mention the morale booster of knowing that you will not have to follow 6 months of working outside in Patagonia with 6 months of dreary data entry in a windowless office”.
They were also looking for a solution that was highly trainable and able to be configured to their specific needs without extensive programming or technical knowledge.

According to Lee, “Another way that Touch Inspect will especially help us is that the programming for our database is extremely difficult and non-intuitive. We also use a lot of codes in the field, for the sake of time and space. It takes a lot of time to train people at the beginning of each field season. Touch Inspect is much more beginner-friendly. Ideally, we’ll be able to hand a brand-new field worker a Trimble YUMA equipped with Touch Inspect and send them out to the field. Since it’s question and answer based, they’ll be walked through it without extensive instruction beforehand. We can do away with codes, and we can have notes that elaborate on questions. That’s another huge plus for us”.

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