Environmental degradation has become increasingly aggressive in recent years due to rapid urban development and other land use pressures. This chapter looks at BioCondition, a newly developed vegetation assessment framework by Queensland Department of Resource Management (DERM) and how mobile technology can assist beginners in conducting the survey. Even though BioCondition is designed to be simple, it is still fairly inaccessible to beginners due to its complex, time consuming, and repetitive nature. A Windows Phone mobile application, BioCondition Assessment Tool, was developed to provide on-site guidance to beginners and document the assessment process for future revision and comparison. The application was tested in an experiment at Samford Conservation Park with 12 students studying ecology in Queensland University of Technology.
The world is undergoing drastic changes due to increased population and rapid urban development. As environmental health is degrading at an alarming rate, ecologists have tried to tackle the problem by monitoring the composition and condition of the environment. This chapter will present the use of mobile technology to assist novice ecologists to conduct vegetation assessment surveys and also to document the survey process to increase validity and accuracy of the assessment result.
BioCondition is a vegetation assessment framework developed by Queensland Department of Resource Management in Australia. It uses surrogates to represent the health or condition of the environment. The framework is designed to be simple and accurate therefore users without ecological background can easily learn the process. However, as tested in an experiment, getting started with BioCondition is still a complex process that requires lengthy study. Beginners also find that they frequently need to refer to the assessment manual for information and thus requiring much longer time to complete the survey. Furthermore, an interview with experts of BioCondition discovers that due to the relaxed nature of BioCondition, it is difficult to validate the assessment result without re-conducting the survey.
Mobile technology has advanced at a tremendous rate in the past few years. Many field work researchers have started evaluating the use of commodity mobile devices. This research aims to take advantage of mobile platforms in order to greatly benefit beginners in learning and data collection and also increase the accuracy of the assessment result.
BioCondition Assessment Tool (BAT), a Windows Phone application, is designed to guide users while undertaking the survey and providing mechanisms to document the process for further validation. The application streamlines the process by adding additional guidelines, examples and interactivity to BioCondition survey. Currently, BAT uses two simple mechanisms to achieve the above goals. Firstly, BAT leverages cameras on mobile devices to take visual evidence of flora. BioCondition involves identification of species. Since beginners may not know the exact species name, keeping a visual record and associating a description can be beneficial in the future for further research or validation by expert ecologists. Secondly, BAT provides context appropriate guidelines and examples to users. Instead of constantly referring the assessment manual, users can interact with graphical elements displayed on a mobile phone which provide description and examples of the actions required to complete the task.
The BioCondition Assessment Tool is evaluated in an experiment conducted with a group of students studying ecology in Queensland University of Technology. The aim of this experiment is to verify that beginners can greatly benefit from mobile technology in the field in guiding them in a BioCondition survey and documentations can increase the accuracy and validity of the assessment result. Experimental results show that the BioCondition Assessment Tool achieves the goals of guiding users, documenting and simplifying the BioCondition survey process.