Words and photos courtesy of Jose Nobrega
Data… one of the most valuable things we get after each season. Data entry… whilst being one of the most important activities to be done on-site, it is also one of the biggest sources of error in the resulting dataset, which is very frustrating for those that, just like me, have to go through data entered by all teams at the end of the season. Human errors caused by lack of attention and fatigue by our science teams while doing data entry leave us, database managers with a painfully long task at the end of the expedition. Reviewing and compiling the long datasets produced by different surveys (Bird Mist-net, Bird Point Count, Bird Acoustics, Bird Opportunistic, Bat Mist-net, Bat Opportunistic, Mammal Transect, Herp Transect, Herp Aguada, Herp Opportunistic, Habitat and Butterflies) in our Calakmul project is a dreadful activity that I do not look forward at the end of the season (boooo!). For this reason, when I took the role of database manager for Calakmul I decided to look for a different system that is more user friendly, and thus allowing our students to get involved in the data entry activities and alleviate the pressure from our science staff (and ultimately saving me hours at the end of the season!!). The question was how to shift things in that direction and ensure minimal risk of human error in the data entry process? This is where Epicollect 5 (data collection app developed by Imperial College London) comes into play.
I first learned about it in late 2017, and decided to trial it in the field in 2018 first with my own PhD data entry and then with our Butterfly surveyors during the summer expedition. It looked promising! This year I have fully launched our new Data Entry system using tablets and it was a huge success! I have created a data entry form for each survey we do, and designed it a way that greatly reduces sources human error (Hooray!). It was with great pleasure that I saw our students getting involved in the data entry process and working alongside our scientists not only in the field but also back at camp. Our student volunteers are well experienced with tablets and smartphones and are surprisingly good and efficient in entering data without any errors! Thank you to all Calakmul staff and students involved in data entry this year. You have saved me a significant amount of time at the end of the season which I can now allocate towards other things! You have made a tall Portuguese man very happy!