Discussion Papers

CyberTracker Monitoring Programme: Final Report November 2007

CyberTracker Conservation (CTC) is a non-profit organization whose mission is to improve environmental monitoring by promoting the use the CyberTracker software to increase the efficiency of gathering higher quality and larger quantities of field observations.

In August 2002 CTC was awarded an EC grant of 1.6 m € over 3 years. The objec- tive was to provide technical support for a series of pilot field projects in southern, central and western Africa where the CyberTracker technology was to be imple- mented to monitor the status of natural resources. The project was granted two ex- tensions to the period of the contract in order to complete and consolidate project activities by June 2007.

CyberTracker in BioKIDS: Customising of a PDA-based scientific data collection application for inquiry learning

by CS Parr, T Jones and N Songer

This paper documents our efforts to customize CyberTracker--a PDA application originally designed for conservation biology data collection--for use within an inquiry learning environment: the BioKIDS curriculum. We provide background for our approach and describe both the initial and current versions of the customized application. We focus on three design choices we made and how they represent multidisciplinary tradeoffs. Finally, we reflect on how this tool meets the needs of the overall curriculum and how it may be helpful more broadly.

Palm computers for spatially referenced social surveys in upgrading informal settlements

by NGlyniss Barodien & Michael Barry

Conditions in informal settlements are complex, at times violent, and continually changing. Managing these settlements in a way that will result in a functional, healthy urban environment constitutes a major challenge. Effective upgrading strategies require accurate, up-to-date social, economic and spatial information. This is especially so when the information is used for adjudication and titling. Moreover the information should be regarded as legitimate by settlement residents themselves. Thus, residents participating in collecting data can contribute to an upgrade project succeeding. We describe two pilot studies where residents, with moderate levels of literacy, volunteered as field workers to collect data.

Comparing Response Time, Errors, and Satisfaction Between Text-based and Graphical User Interfaces During Nursing Order Tasks

by Nancy Staggers, RN, PhD and David Kobus, PhD

Despite the general adoption of graphical users interfaces (GUIs) in health care, few empirical data document the impact of this move on system users. This study compares two distinctly different user interfaces, a legacy text-based interface and a prototype graphical interface, for differences in nurses' response time (RT), errors, and satisfaction when the interfaces are used in the performance of computerized nursing order tasks. In a medical center on the East Coast of the United States, 98 randomly selected male and female nurses completed 40 tasks using each interface.

CyberTrackers: Bushmen and Information Technology

Editor: Stephen L. Talbott

"The art of tracking", writes Louis Liebenberg, "may have been the originof science". As a physicist who has spent many years tracking with theBushmen of the Kalahari Desert, Liebenberg speaks with some authority.And there can in any case be little doubt about the remarkableobservational and interpretive skills of expert trackers -- skills thatwould be the envy of many scientists (or, at least, of those relative fewwho still occupy themselves with the appearances of the natural worldrather than with instrument readings and abstractions).

Wild Animal Mortality Monitoring and Human Ebola Outbreaks, Gabon and Republic of Congo, 2001–2003

All human Ebola virus outbreaks during 2001–2003 in the forest zone between Gabon and Republic of Congo resulted from handling infected wild animal carcasses. After the first outbreak, we created an Animal Mortality Monitoring Network in collaboration with the Gabonese and Congolese Ministries of Forestry and Environment and wildlife organizations (Wildlife Conservation Society and Programme de Conservation et Utilisation Rationnelle des Ecosystèmes Forestiers en Afrique Centrale) to predict and possibly prevent human Ebola outbreaks.

Electronic Ranger Diaries: The Kruger National Park CyberTracker Program

by Sandra Mac Fadyen

The CyberTracker (CT) System was developed for application in conservation by Louis Liebenberg, as a user-friendly interface developed for PalmOS computers. The system allows literate as well as non-literate field workers to record customised observations with latitude (lat) and longitude (long) co-ordinates ( The Kruger National Park (KNP) first recognised the potential use of the CT system as an ecological data collection tool in early 2000 and assisted by the GTZ, was able to purchase 44 Palm IIIe organisers and 44 Garmin 12XL GPS units with Palm/GPS interface cables.

Integrating Traditional Knowledge with Computer Science for the Conservation of Biodiversity

by Louis Liebenberg, Edwin Blake, Lindsay Steventon, Karel Benadie and James Minye

The art of tracking, as practised by San hunter-gatherers of the Kalahari, may well be the origin of science. Trackers gain a detailed understanding of animal behaviour through the interpretation of tracks and signs. In this way much information can be obtained that would otherwise remain unknown, especially on the behaviour of rare and nocturnal species that are not often seen. The best trackers, however, are found in hunter-gatherer communities with oral traditions and cannot read or write. The authors have developed a hand-held field computer with a user interface that enables trackers who cannot read or write to record all their observations. Computer visualisation allows scientists to analyse data collected by trackers. At a time when hunting with bows and arrows are declining, the art of tracking can be revitalised and developed into a new science with many practical applications in the conservation of biodiversity.

Observer Error in Identifying Species Using Indirect Signs: Analysis of a River Otter Track Survey Technique

by Jonah WY Evans

Indirect signs of species presence (e.g., tracks, scats, hairs) are frequently used to detect target species in occupancy, presence/absence, and other wildlife studies. Indirect signs are often more efficient than direct observation of elusive animals, making such signs well suited for long-term and broad-scale monitoring programs. However, error associated with misidentification of indirect signs can be high, and should be measured if meaningful inferences about population parameters are to be made. This study addressed the need for systematic approaches to estimate and minimize variation due to observer error in identifying indirect signs.

Are We Gathering Reliable Data? The Need For Measuring Observer Skill in Wildlife Monitoring

by Ciel Amy Wharton

The accuracy and reliability of data collected in wildlife surveys can be affected by observer skill. Field sign surveys are especially sensitive to observer effects because of the proficiency required to correctly identify tracks and signs. As a result, there is a need for a method that will systematically measure the skill of participants in wildlife research. CyberTracker Conservation has created one such tool, the Tracker Evaluation.

Rhino Tracking with the CyberTracker Field Computer

by Louis Liebenberg, Lindsay Steventon, Karel Benadie and James Minye

*Published in Pachyderm, No 27, Jan-Dec 1999.

To interpret animal tracks the tracker must have a sophisticated understanding of animal behaviour. There is in principle no limit to the level of sophistication to which a tracker can develop his or her expertise (Liebenberg, 1990).

Apart from knowledge based on direct observations of animals, trackers gain a detailed understanding of animal behaviour through the interpretation of tracks and signs. In this way much information can be obtained that would otherwise remain unknown, especially on the behaviour of rare or nocturnal animals that are not often seen.