Creating a campus biodiversity recording app by Dr Alice Mauchline

IMG_2897 (2)There is an on-going multi-disciplinary, student-led project at the University of Reading to create an app for recording biodiversity sightings on the Whiteknights campus. This project was funded by the Teaching & Learning Development Fund and is currently engaging students, staff and external natural history groups alongside design and technology experts to create and customise an app for data collection on smartphones and other mobile devices in the field.

The biodiversity data records will be stored in a central database which students and staff can analyse to e.g. monitor long-term changes in the local environment. It is anticipated that this dataset will develop over time and that the app will be used to support curriculum teaching and other research projects at the University including those that are coordinated through the Whiteknights Biodiversity blog: http://blogs.reading.ac.uk/whiteknightsbiodiversity/.

One of the main aims of this project is to ‘engage students in research and enquiry in the curriculum’ which is one of the University’s T&L key strategic priorities. The multi-disciplinary team of students will have first-hand experience of developing a data collection tool that can be used for research projects in the curriculum across several Schools. The future availability of this app has already prompted both staff and students to think of ways that it could be used in teaching and research and it is hoped that it will help to ‘evolve our approaches to teaching and learning’ – a second T&L priority – and to support Technology-Enhanced Learning in fieldwork.

The team comprises six student champions: Liz White (Biological Sciences), Liam Basford (Typography & Graphic Communication), Mark Wells & Stephen Birch (Systems Engineering), Jonathan Tanner (Geography & Environmental Science) and Phillippa Oppenheimer (Agriculture). They are supported by a member of staff in each of these Schools; Alastair Culham, Alison Black, Karsten Lundqvist, Hazel McGoff & Alice Mauchline. The student champions are currently working together to gather information from staff in the relevant Schools about how this app could be useful in their teaching. They are also scoping other external projects and mobile recording apps to provide a basis for our design. The name, logo and branding of the project is also in development and the team held a recent Hack Day to decide on the basic functions for the user-centred app.

The team will soon have a prototype app for trialling and testing on campus and the student champions will be recruiting volunteers to help test the app for collecting biodiversity records. So keep an eye out for them and there will be further updates on this blog as the project progresses.

Please get in touch if you would like further information as we’d like to involve as many people in this project as possible! a.l.mauchline@reading.ac.uk

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