A primatologist at the University of Kent has developed an app that allows accurate logging of animal behaviour for scientific research.
Animal Behaviour Pro, an iPhone app designed by Dr Nicholas E. Newton-Fisher from the University's School of Anthropology and Conservation, aims to provide students and the research community with a professional-level solution to the difficulties surrounding live coding.
Animal Behaviour Pro allows the researcher to log the identity of the animal they are looking at, the time-span required to note its activities, as well as input the type of activity the species undertakes, for example, when it 'calls', forages, rests or travels.
The app also allows researchers to build up a library of configurations, such as a list of animals and lists of behaviours (ethograms), whilst actually undertaking research in the field. These configurations not only save researchers time and money, as reference to a base system is not required during field research, but it also gives users the freedom to decide how to program the app to suit their study, rather than constraining them to work around fixed functionality.
Dr Newton-Fisher, Senior Lecturer in Primate Behavioural Ecology, said: 'Understanding animal behaviour requires an accurate and precise record, collected in a systematic way. But traditional pen-on-paper check-sheets have limitations and require hours of transcription before computer-based statistical analysis can be conducted. Similarly, existing electronic data loggers are more suited for coding from video or in lab situations where the observer does not need to follow the animal through its natural habitat.
'I found that I needed a solution that gave standard sampling methods, such as focal animal and scan sampling, in a way that allowed control over how I collected data. There seemed to be nothing on the market designed first and foremost for fieldworkers, and so I decided to see what I could come up with.'
The app provides four standard methods for the researcher -- Focal Animal Sampling, Scan Sampling, Focal Behaviour Sampling and Ad Libitum Sampling -- and was prompted by field-work experiences watching wild primates and other mammals in Africa.
Animal Behaviour Pro has been funded by the University's Ideas Factory, which provides funding for all members of staff that have an innovative and enterprising idea with commercial potential. It was developed by SyncInteractive.
The app is a stand-alone solution and allows multiple sampling types to run alongside one another. It allows for a virtually unlimited number of subjects and behaviours within its database and supports the export of data in CSV format via iTunes or by email. The app has the ability to 'lock down' parts so it is suitable for training students or for use by field assistants.
Animal Behaviour Pro is available for iPhone and iPod touch, via the App Store, here: http://www.kent.ac.uk/sac/iosapp/animalbehaviourpro.html.
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