Customised data collection software

Handheld computers do away with the tedium of digitizing data from paper check sheets. Not only that, but they put useful information at your fingertips, wherever you are.

Whether you're collecting uniform data such as vegetation cover, or highly variable data such as animal behaviour, handheld computers can speed up the process.

Psion organiser IIOne of the first computers that was suitable for field use was the Psion Organiser II. The Organiser continues to be the workhorse of many behavioural, lab and field studies. Its robustness, simplicity and low price mean that it remains a good choice in many situations.

Allegro Newer machines, such as Juniper Systems' Allegro, or the Husky FS4, bring unparalleled processing power to the field. These allow powerful programming languages to be used in addition to built-in spreadsheet and database programs. Whatever data you need access to, or whatever you want to record, these machines are ideal.

Recording  behaviour using the Psion See a Psion used to record sheep rutting behaviour.

Sunadal Data Solutions has a long track-record of producing customised software. Its products have been used for behavioural studies of mammals, birds and fish and automated logging of many different types of data, from nest attendance and body mass changes of passerines, to feeding and sheltering behaviour of sheep.

Some of the studies that have used Sunadal's software:

Preston BT, Stevenson IR, Pemberton JM, Coltman DW, Wilson K, 2003. Overt and covert competition in a promiscuous mammal: the relative importance of weaponry and testes size to male reproductive success. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series B 270: 633-640.

Preston BT, Stevenson IR, Pemberton JM, Wilson K, 2001. Dominant rams lose out by sperm depletion. Nature 409: 681-682.

Stevenson IR, Bryant DM, 2000. Climate change and constraints on breeding. Nature 406: 366-367.

Coulson T, Albon S, Pilkington J, Clutton-Brock T, 1999. Small-scale spatial dynamics in a fluctuating ungulate population. Journal of Animal Ecology 68: 658-671.

Komers PE, Birgersson B, Ekvall K, 1999. Timing of estrus in fallow deer is adjusted to the age of available mates. American Naturalist 153: 431-436.

Balshine-Earn S, 1995. The costs of parental care in Galilee St Peter's fish, Sarotherodon galilaeus. Animal Behaviour 50: 1-7.