The WildLab

Mediated Spaces – The WildLab

BACKGROUND

From 2006 to 2009 I was Co-Founder of Mediated Spaces. During this time, we were hard at work upon on The WildLab and The Skymap, two citizen science mobile focused applications. Using locative data provided by GPS/LBS products, Mediated Spaces’ platform delivered information for education, research, and commercial applications.


THE PROBLEM

As we were building our our offerings of citizen science applications, we observed a problem within the birdwatching community. Birdwatchers were typically using expensive, high-end cameras, binoculars, and traveling around the world to notate their findings, which they typically recorded with pencil and paper. We wanted to better enable these birdwatchers to record and report their findings amongst themselves and the greater citizen science community.


THE PROCESS

The WildLab was aimed to afford birdwatchers the ability to record their findings in the field. Our research showed that out of all wildlife-watching activities, birding dominated. In a 2006 study, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) estimated that nearly 50 million people participated in some birdwatching activity during the year in the U.S. alone. Organizations like the National Audubon Society sponsor birdcounts that collect data from millions of people, which scientists use such data for analyses that indicate the overall health of ecosystems.

Our process started with research within the field of citizen science, interviewing birdwatchers, and analyzing the market for competitors, solutions, and advances in technology. Working with my two co-founders, we worked through ideas, sketches, userflows, moodboards, wireframes, and prototypes to build out a proof of concept. Our aim was to build quickly so we could test out our hypotheses. Failing fast is a good thing, as it helped us build a product which we soon launched.


THE SOLUTION

The award-winning WildLab mobile service helped citizen scientists collect better data. The WildLab platform delivered accurate, real-time scientific information to researchers, naturalists, and educators across a variety of platforms and technologies. The WildLab has three components: a mobile application, a Web site, and an API for developers. Users could also easily export their data and submit it to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s eBird Web site. The WildLab on the iPhone offers the most elegant and accurate sightings tool. A native application written in objective-C, it took advantage of the assisted-GPS capabilities and the excellent user interface of the iPhone. It had a settings page that tags your data with effort information, and interactive maps that display eBird HotSpots and your own favorite birding locations. It was offered for sale in the iTunes App Store.

After signing up for an account, users view, sort, and edit their sightings collected in the field. They may also add sightings manually from the Web site, and export sightings into eBird record format. User HotSpots and sightings are displayed on an interactive map. For developers, some functionality of the WildLab’s platform is exposed via an Application Programming Interface (API). We plan on making it available to qualified developers later in the year. In general, we try to make it easy to adhere to the data collection standards of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s eBird Web site.


AWARDS

In Spring 2009, The Wildlab was awarded a $190,000 research grant from the MacArthur Foundation. The WildLab was also awarded 1st Runner Up at the 2008 NAVTEQ Global LBS Challenge.