Animal Observer is an advanced free application created to help researchers and students collect behavioral and health data. Animal observer is completely customizable
Download: iOS 9.1 (15.8MB)
Runs offline: yes (after the initial setting)
Last update: iOS 05/10/2016 (v. 1.1)
Website of the developer: Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International
Animal Observer is an app oriented for a professional use that allows researchers, students and technical personnel to record animal behaviour, social relationships and health status of individuals who, being part of a group or not, are being monitored in the framework of, for example, a field ethology study.
The application is fully customizable through the Animal Observer Toolbox and the R program. However, in order to allow interested users to evaluate if the application is adapted to their needs, the tool includes as a tutorial data about several groups of gorillas.
Once you have entered the test PIN, you access to the welcome screen, where through Group ID you will have to choose the group or groups that you wish to study during the session that you are about to initiate. Using the ➕ icon you can add new members.
After clicking Confirm settings, on the next screen you must select an individual; the duration of the Focal duration, ie, the time that you are going to be assigned to the observation of an individual, couple or litter and during which you can record the previously defined behaviors; and the Scan interval, that can be defined as the time in which observer focuses on each of the animal individuals of a group in a rotational way and for short intervals of time.
Once the scanning procedure is started, you can drag the identification codes of individuals and place them spatially in relation to the focal individual. Click on each code to select the activity they are developing. Once the scan is complete, with a double-click on each code, you can enter data related to health or specific behavior.
Images: screenshots 22/05/2017. ©Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International
According to the definition included in Wikipedia, ethology is«the scientific and objective study of animal behaviour, usually with a focus on behaviour under natural conditions, and viewing behaviour as an evolutionarily adaptive trait». Observing the behaviour of animals is an aspect that is increasingly receiving more attention from conservation biology, as Marcelo Cassini argues in his study «The importance of ethology in conservation», since a greater knowledge on this subject can contribute, for example, to the success in a program of reintroduction of species.
This collection of field observation data has traditionally been done manually, with pencil and paper, as the article linked in the section “More information” states. This modus operandi has been valid for a long time, but it has also led to a high error rate due to typos or transcription errors on data, problems that are wanted to curb with applications such as this, which allows, once completed the work in the field, export the information to a database for detailed study. Maybe the theme of customization might make someone interested in testing the application retire, although according to the app’s website, it is not necessary to have previous knowledge in R to be able to adapt the tool to the specific needs of each project.