Butterfly Conservation required a simple but effective tool for staff to record visits to conservation sites and log the site management activities that were undertaken.
These data are critical for the organisation for a number of reasons. The data are used to:
- Build a picture of the time spent and work done on a site over time
- Show how and where time is spent across the whole of the UK
- Monitor impact
- Produce reports for stakeholders and funders
For many years the only solution was for site visit data to be recorded on paper in the field and then added to an Excel spreadsheet. This data then had to be transcribed to a QGIS project by staff, usually once a year. Many staff members found QGIS daunting and too difficult to use, and so lots of time was being spent each year on training and support and also encouraging people to add their data.
Other significant problems for the organisation were that staff often ended up recording data in non-standard ways and had no visibility of the data at the end of the process. This meant that it couldn’t be used to inform vital work without a lot of additional effort from other staff members, which was a point of continual frustration.
For those staff trying to collate and analyse the data the system was equally flawed due to the inconsistencies in how data was recorded, along with the significant time delay involved between data capture on-site and data entry into QGIS. In 2018 I spent 5 weeks cleaning the dataset in order to make the information usable and even after that, it would take me the best part of a week to make sure everything was formatted correctly each year.
“Coreo has allowed us to build an app to tackle a data-flow problem that the organisation has had for 20 years. It’s fair to say that in its first year, even with the interruption caused by COVID 19, we’re seeing a transformation in how we collect and use site data. It’s making a significant impact, and that will only increase over time.”Dr Katie Cruickshanks (Senior Data Ecologist) & Patrick Cook (Ecologist & GIS Specialist) – Butterfly Conservation
When Butterfly Conservation discovered Coreo our first thought was whether it could be used to replace the current site management system. Because the system relies on displaying and interacting with hundreds of site boundaries we first consulted with Natural Apptitude to check feasibility. After a short period of consultation we were excited to learn about the functionality Coreo provides and were able to produce an app that enables staff to:
- Define new site boundaries to add to the database whilst in the field or back in the office
- Record visits to existing sites and log any management or activities undertaken
- Record who was involved in each site visit and log time spent
- Work offline
- View all UK sites
Site data is now immediately available to our team, and individual staff are also able to access the Coreo system to view, edit and export their data with ease. The other impressive aspect is the ability to update elements of the app as we go. App users receive these updates immediately, which has meant that we have been able to fine tune the way this project works for use in the field.
“Our Site Management Coreo app has transformed the data collection from sites for the organisation. Staff that found the previous system too difficult to manage are now among those regularly submitting site visit data using the app. Staff in the field love it because it’s intuitive and quick. And it saves them considerable time since they only have to record the information once – not three times as with the earlier system.
For the whole organisation it’s added enormous value to the data. Data are now instantly available for use in Coreo by anyone that needs them, with no need for the user to do anything complicated – all they need to do is log in. And because the app only allows users to record data one way, the data are completely standardised. In its first year this has already saved days of my time and has also meant that I no longer have to provide QGIS training to all of the site related staff.
Data on all the sites, and the key metrics we need, are now instantly available for inclusion in annual reports and external reporting to stakeholders. For the first time we can now also see patterns in the data such as areas that are under resourced or unvisited – and that’s critical. We’re now able to utilise this data to make sure we allocate effort in the areas that most need it and also make sure that we can provide funders with the information they need to provide us with the financial resources to continue with vital conservation work.”