Annual Report 2005/2006
We built on the findings of our thorough study of user practice to
build a browser for biodiversity research notes. Our study included
interviews with numerous field biologists and museum personnel. One of
our students also underwent training as a docent for our participating
Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve. That same student accompanied a
class of biology students to a training session in the Mexican rain
forest. These activities gave us a solid understanding of user needs.
Our resulting ButterflyNet browser consequently bridged the gap
between the very much liked paper notebooks that biodiversity
researchers are used to, and the digital world. We accomplished this
bridging through the use of Anoto technology. This technology includes
a pen and paper with a tiny dot pattern printed upon it. The pen
writes with regular ink, but it also includes a camera that uses the
dots as location reference. The pen can thereby record all of the
writer's strokes. In addition, each stroke is time stamped. When
uploaded to the computer, the mechanism provides an image of the
Using the time stamps, the ButterflyNet browser collates digital
photographs with the online version of the notebook. Collation is
possible because digital photographs are also time stamped.
EcoPod: PDA Based Species Identification
We developed a tool that helps well informed amateurs to identify
plants and animals in the field. Such tools are important because
biodiversity research requires large datasets of observations that can
then be analyzed for changes over time and correlations with other
developments, like global warming and urbanization.
The challenge for such tools is that the resulting data must be
reliable so as not to mislead the scientific analysis. Our EcoPod tool
therefore includes a number of features that allow users to express
uncertainty, and to attach evidence, like photographs and audio
recordings, to their observations.
TeamTag: Groups Tagging Photographs
A third project this past year has been a tool for groups of
biologists to collaboratively annotate photographs with metadata. Such
a tool is useful for instance in teaching situations, because proper
metadata tagging is not always straight forward.
Our tool operates on a tabletop display. This is a table whose surface
is the display of a computer. Four participants can sit around the
table and interact with its surface. Interaction is accomplished by
touching or dragging items on the display surface. The tabletop
hardware allows the attached computer to distinguish who is touching
the surface at any time.
We explored in particular how best to place the tagging tools on the
table's surface. The placement proved to be less obvious than we had
expected. We found that the best strategy was to replicate all of the
tagging control for each user, even though this approach consumes much
more screen real estate than the alternative of placing the controls
into the center of the table.
We organized an all-hands meeting early in the year. This meeting
brought together our partners from the California Academy of Sciences,
and the Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve.
Prof. Dirzo's reported on his installation of large-mammal camera
traps in the Jasper Ridge Preserve. This project is now well on its
way and producing data.
Broader Community Impact
Our EcoPod project is expressly focused on larger community
impact. Many lay citizens are interested in contributing observations
to the growing collections of plant and animal observations. Web sites
like Calflora collect this data. Unfortunately, many researchers are
hesitant to utilize this data, because it is not always deemed
reliable. EcoPod is one step towards creating an audit trail that will
allow some quality assurance process to be introduced into the data
Early Protoypes and Designs
- Andreas Paepcke
- Ron Yeh
- YuanYuan Yu
- Aswath Manoharan
- Dan Maynes-Aminzade
- Hao Liu
- Jeannie Stamberger