A flexible, community-building app to track and share wildlife sightings among researchers and laymen alike.
After completing a UX design job for a corporate research center, I took a trip down to Karanambu Lodge in Guyana where researchers are working hard to track jaguar and caiman populations. I was startled to find that these researchers still used handheld GPS units and pads of notebook paper to record and organize their data. In their offices, I saw bookcases stuffed with old manila folders and field notes, their computers filled with conflicting excel spreadsheets peppered with digitization errors, and their process of sharing data tedious and frustrating. Curious if other environmental research groups were being hampered by cumbersome data tracking methods, I visited a wide range of non-profits, research organizations and hobbyists, and found the problem to be widespread.
So I took a look around at what tools were available and found nothing flexible or rigorous enough to serve their needs. Here were dedicated people trying to track our planet's biodiversity and there were no well-designed, functionally rich tools to make it quick and easy to input, upload, display and share their data.
Green Heron Works was established to meet this need in Providence, Rhode Island. I began meeting with professors, scientists, students, birders, hikers, non-profits, government environmental organizations- everyone I could in order to understand their needs and come up with a proper design solution. A talented software engineer was brought on board and by now, we've built a prototype, the designs are taking their final form, and we're gearing up to do some serious development over the coming months, with a projected deadline of December 2013 for release on the iPhone, complete with a web presence for analyzing and sharing your data. (See our stretch goals for more information on Android, iPad, and Windows Phone) With your support we can continue to focus on building the Glance app as swiftly and function-rich as possible!
Jessica Herron: Designer and Founder Jessica has a BA in Film/Animation from the Rhode Island School of Design and worked at Microsoft Research in Seattle doing UX (User Experience) design on big data visualization and interaction design methodology for web and mobile apps. She returned to the Providence area to start Green Heron Works and Glance, and is working part-time at Brown University's Graphics Lab doing UX work on various corporate-funded projects. She loves hiking, biking, running, diving- anything that gets her in the outdoors, and she carries that passion into her efforts to create the best possible tools for the scientific community.
Alexander Hills: Developer and Co-Founder Alex has a B.A. in Visual Art, a B.S. in Computer Science, and a M.S. in Computer Science, all from Brown University. He did research in Human Computer Interaction for four years while in school, and since receiving his Masters has been working as a Program Manager on User Experience for the Windows team at Microsoft. He will be returning to Rhode Island at the beginning of July to help start Green Heron Works with Jess. He has a passion for good games, good company, good swimming, and good beer, and is thrilled for the future.
Beta Testing Pool: Due to iOS's limitations on beta-testing, we can only support a limited number of testers. Because of this, we're having a pool that we'll draw from to pick testers! The more you donate, the higher your chance will be of getting picked. And if we reach our stretch goals (below) we'll be able to add more beta testers.
Light Membership: a light membership will be free, but you will be limited to storing datasets locally on your phone and joining datasets that are supported by other organizations and users.
Full Membership: Estimated cost: $5 a month. As a full member you'll be able to create cloud-stored datasets and customized data collection forms. Your datasets will be shown in online interactive maps - which you can set to public or private - and share with others to explore. You'll also be able to let others join and contribute to your datasets!
If we can raise more than our goal, here's what we'll use the money for.
We'll be able to double our number of beta-testers as well as make the first version faster!
We'll be able to triple our number of beta-testers, as well as work towards supporting the Android and Windows platforms. We'll also use this money after the first version is released to jump right into development of plugins for new features as well as support for other kinds of environmental data (ie: air or water quality).
We'd love to hear from you, so feel free to contact us or leave comments.
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We're a well-rounded, small team of highly motivated workaholics, passionate about this project and the impact it can make on the communities we're designing and building for. We have experience with designing complex, interactive educational experiences and are commited to being closely tied with our users to be on top of every bug and glitch that comes along the way.
This project is ambitious and has difficult design and technical aspects, but we'll be working hard -and listening hard to our users- to make sure we make the best product possible.
So the Light Membership will be free, and with that a user can join as many Open Datasets as they'd like. So they can join local non-profits that have set up any kind of dataset, from birds, to seals, to general wildlife, to anything else. A user can then sign up for a $5/month Full Membership where they can not only join as many Open Datasets as they'd like, but they can join Full Datasets and create their own datasets online with their own customized data collection forms and cloud storage and interactive maps. Open Datasets are paid for by their host organization (so the non-profit or other organization that set it up) because we have to cover the bandwidth usage and storage costs. Full Datasets, since all of the users are paid users, can be set up for free by Full members, but Light members can't contribute.
So the idea is that users who just want to contribute information don't have to pay, while users who want to have their own datasets and join more professional datasets do pay. And it's only $5/month, the setting up process is very easy, and we're saving users time in digitizing the information, so we believe we're hitting a pretty reasonable note there with the cost.
Project Noah is a great app for citizen scientists and scientists who need to collect very basic information from the public about an animal and its location, and then see the pins on a map. We're trying to go beyond that in multiple ways:
-the architecture of Project Noah is such that there are general wildlife sightings, then there are missions which you can join to contribute basic sighting information. We're taking it a step further: Glance is set up so that an organization can set up its own database, set exactly the range of animals they're interested in tracking, create very detailed collection forms (more on that below), have access to plugins for discipline-specific functionality (again, below), and have that dataset be publicly viewable or private, members-only or open to public.
-the ability to make customized data collection forms so that they don't have to be limited to the animal name, GPS location and notes, but they can customize it to have as many data fields as they want (for example: gender, activity, weight, animal ID, etc), in order to collect the rigorous data they need.
-well-designed interactive online maps for each dataset which can be filtered, analyzed, shared, or exported to ArcGIS
-plug-ins for specific functionality desired by researchers in different fields. So two examples: birders would be able get notifications on their phones of rare bird sightings in the area, or a research team would be able to put transect lines on their maps to follow while they collect data. The more functionality we hear people need, the more plugins we make available, so it’s a flexible architecture that will allow users to customize their app to exactly what they need.
The main difference is the level of functionality. Project Noah is a great app for making general wildlife sightings in your area or on a trip, and they do have the ability to have scientists set up missions. But Project Noah wasn't meant to be a rigorous tool for professionals who need to keep track of a lot of data other than a name and location, do analysis, and make reports. So though you will be able to use Glance in the same way that Project Noah is being used, it's really meant to reach that level of filling the professional need as well.
Glad you're excited! Well a great way to help would be to share this with a wide range of friends and colleagues; As this project is directed towards organizations of any scale -from a neighborhood group of friends who likes to go bird-watching to an academic institution to a nation-wide organization- you can share this project with anyone, including:
professors, teachers, educators scientists, non-profit workers and volunteers government environmental org employees friends and family who love the outdoors and wildlife
Also, once we come out with version one, we're going to be ears-to-the-ground for your feedback. Plus, in order for us to build the plugins you want for what you're doing, you'll need to let us know! So don't be afraid to stay in touch and let us know how you want to use Glance. Can't guarantee we can make every dream come true, but we're doing our best to make it flexible enough for future growth in many directions.
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