ECOSA is an ecological consultancy that works across South England. The 22 strong team primarily focuses on the development sector, supporting the planning and development of new buildings and ensuring their adherence to environmental standards. This includes completing a variety of surveys such as;
- Phase 1
- Protected species surveys
We caught up with Georgie Timmis, Principal Ecologist at ECOSA, who discussed how their transition to Coreo has helped them streamline data collection across the organisation.
“When I first joined ECOSA, the primary data collection tool was pen and paper. Like many ecological consultancies, we soon recognised that this was not the best way to collect data as we spent more time transcribing the data than actually surveying.
“We’d generally transcribe the text data from the surveys directly into our reports, but this left us with a lot of paper management (and risk of paperwork going missing!). Later we transitioned to using Google Sheets, which meant that the data was backed up and accessible for the whole team but created other issues. We had some of the data in spreadsheets, associated photos on employees’ phones, notes and locations on paper maps and often scribbles of additional information on scraps of paper that ended up getting lost.
“We also found that it was difficult to pinpoint exact locations when we used paper maps. This resulted in more valuable time being wasted, and we were restricted to sending the same ecologists back to sites they had surveyed to regather the information, reducing our resourcing flexibility and impacting cost efficiency.
‘We knew that the only way to solve all these problems was to digitise and collate our entire data collection workflow.
“We began using free apps like View Ranger and Map Marker to drop pins on specific sites, with the aim of improving our geospatial data, but as these apps weren’t created specifically for ecologists and the tasks we were undertaking, they only resolved one or two of the many fundamental issues we had. There were also concerns over data privacy and support for the apps.
‘We recognised that we needed a more comprehensive system and began looking at ArcGIS. However, we quickly realised that it was not only too expensive for us as a medium sized ecological consultancy, but also extremely complex to use, and we simply didn’t have the time or staff resources to dedicate to it.
“After speaking with the Natural Apptitude team at a CIEEM conference, we felt we had found the answer to all our data collection woes in Coreo.
“Coreo has proved to be exactly the platform we need – easy to use, simple to set up and solves all of the major issues we had previously. Coreo’s holistic approach to data collection means we now have one system where we can;
- build bespoke surveys easily
- collect and view all our data (text, images and geospatial)
- QA the data
- export data for reporting
“Its ease of use has meant everyone can build surveys and work with the data – that’s important so that we remove single points of failure in the business.
“With its wide range of features we’re also able to use Coreo for more than just data collection. We’ve utilised the ID guide feature to enable us to support further development and training of our junior colleagues by giving them the opportunity to sense check their species identification out in the field, without the need for multiple heavy ID books.”
“Coreo has already had a very positive effect on business productivity and this is set to improve further as we fine tune it to our workflows. It has sped up our entire data collection and reporting process and we no longer spend hours in the office transcribing our data and sense checking it for errors, it’s all there ready for us to use whenever we need it. This is such an important facet of Coreo.
“Data accuracy is also better. With Coreo we are able to map point, line and polygon data using GPS. This accuracy is critical, particularly with regard to BNG. When you factor in the ability to record images and use form features such as mandatory and conditional fields, Coreo’s positive effect on data quality is clear.
“We’re also now able to use Coreo to improve compliance work. We can confidently use the data we collect as evidence for sites. In addition finding specific features is much easier as you have the accurate location and photos to help guide you back to e.g. dormouse and bat boxes that are often completely hidden. Before Coreo, although we had most of the data, simply finding some features might take us hours of searching, particularly in large areas of woodland. Now we can see the records on our phone and navigate straight to them. Photos then help us double check what should be there and it’s obvious what’s changed.
“Along with the fact that Coreo provides the official UKHab Survey App for Biodiversity Net Gain assessments we now feel in a far better position with our survey work and can focus on the really important work of collecting accurate data and producing high quality reports for clients. It’s no exaggeration to say it’s transformed how the organisation functions.”
If you’d like to find out more about Coreo, then please contact us below.