Dennis Deck, Virtual Dirt Time
CyberTracker is an intriguing database that supports PDA-based field data collection. Originally developed to support conservation work employing illiterate bushman in South Africa, the developers have offered up the program as freeware for other wildlife projects (see http://www.cybertracker.co.za).
I created the Northwest sequence for CyberTracker to serve my needs as both a tracker and a birder. My intent is to collect various types of data about animal sign either as part of a formal census project or when in the field on my own. Examples of questions I want to answer are:
Figure 1 provides a visual overview of the sequence. The specifics of the branching data sequences were left out to simplify the diagram. The arrows indicate the main path through the sequence and return arrows pointing to the OK destination.
Figure 1. Overview of Northwest CyberTracker sequence designed for
general tracking data collection and for use in bird census projects.
The Start Menu organizes information about the survey and controls your GPS. The Category Menu points to the appropriate species list. Once you have identified the species, then select the type of information you want to record for that species from the Data Menu. When you complete the data sequence you chose and press OK, CyberTracker records a GPS waypoint (if the GPS is on), saves the data for this observation, and returns you to the Data Menu so you can enter other information about that species.
The data sequences branching from the Data Menu are:
Navigation revolves around the data menu. That works fine for multiple entries for a single species but not when selecting a new species. Unfortunately CyberTracker only supports one OK destination per branch so I simply back up one step to the species list from the Data Menu as a shortcut. Otherwise you end up back at the Start Menu.
Locally we have standardized on Jim Halfpenny’s approach to measurement so the Track and Gait measurement sequences are built primarily around his terminology. I have added a couple personal variants to measure "offsets" due to speed changes or side gaits as part of a little analysis I hope to do.
The sign and behavior sections are still evolving. For example, I am considering using Jim Halfpenny’s compendium coding system for behavior.
The Bird ID branch of the Northwest sequence for CyberTracker is designed to allow you to record bird species seen, GPS waypoints where the bird was seen, and to record counts for census projects. It employs the 6-letter coding scheme used with the Christmas Bird Count (CBC) rather than a list due to the sheer number of possible species.
I have constructed this sequence from scratch rather than piggyback on some earlier version of the North American sequence developed by Wilderness Awareness School. It is my own design but I did borrow some ideas from sequences developed by Terry Kem (Deerdance tracking school and Portland Audubon Society) and Dr. James Halfpenny (Naturalist World).
The Northwest sequence reflects my interest in collecting information primarily about the target species, not about the process of tracking. It also reflects some emerging design principles that have helped me.