How Scientists Use the Fulcrum App to Collect Data in the Field


Fulcrum is an app that allows scientists to collect data and deal with entries generated in the field when carrying out their research and it has helped prevent the loss of data to random accidents. In today’s age, mobile applications are very valuable and useful tools for us that enable us to carry out various in the past impossible functions. There are now apps that are designed specifically to gather data effectively for later use in communications, analysis, and more. These apps allow us to gather immense amounts and quite a lot of data and also Retrieve it quickly and easily. Provided how data-dependent our work is, we started the use of an app called Fulcrum to assist in data collection.

Earlier, when there was once no Fulcrum and we had to survey dozens of villages, it was once very difficult for us to write down the entire information on a data sheet. It was once even more difficult to deal with the data records through the years and to sort through hundreds of sheets for data entry. Data loss was once the unmarried biggest issue we faced with paper sheets. We missing some valuable data to rain, odd weather conditions, sheets getting torn, and a few random accidents that are inevitable while the use of paper. Data once missing back then was once as good as data missing endlessly. Things changed once we made the switch to the use of a tablet and the mobile app Fulcrum.

The team uses tablets to collect data from the field, which has eliminated the need for datasheets that may be easily damaged
Photo Credit: NCF

Coming from a small village nestled in the heart of Malai Mahadeshwara Hills Wildlife Sanctuary, I had never used any gadgets aside from a simple phone before, and this was once a immense transition for me! Naturally, there was once a learning curve and we all made loads of mistakes first of all, but once we got good at it, there was once no going back to the use of paper! It gave me huge happiness and delight so to update myself to the current times and use technology to carry out community work.

The tablet is easy to carry. The large screen makes it convenient to function, and it is durable and has a protective cover so we do not panic whether a couple of drops of water fall on it. Fulcrum presents an interface where we have customised the fields of data required and all we need to do is enter the data. It is much like filling a form online- easy, quick, and hassle-free.

All of the data we enter on the tablet is uploaded to the cloud upon syncing whenever we get an internet connection, in a position to be downloaded at our convenience to analyse. This also cuts down many hours of work for us that would differently be spent manually entering data on a pc. It even reduces the chances of human error which we would face while manually entering immense amounts of data at one go.

Armed with the tablet, we set out to survey and collect quite a lot of data from villages where we identify beneficiaries for our more than a few projects wherein we supply alternatives to firewood, and mitigate human-wildlife clash by providing solar-powered lights and crop fences. One of the typical data categories include the beneficiary’s socio-economic information, their sample of firewood collection and usage, geographical location, and a lot more.

To set up baseline usage and discount in usage after switching to LPG, we weigh the amount of collected firewood for each and every beneficiary twice, for a period of 7 days each and every. This huge amount of data collection is made easy as one simply needs to go into the values and dates in the application
Photo Credit: NCF

Our experience with this technology is not without its problems. There have been instances when flawed syncing caused us to lose some valuable fuelwood weighing data, which was once an extremely hard loss to affect as that roughly data takes us more than a week to gather for one village. But we adapted, and got better at handling small glitches and working our way around them.

Overall, this device and the mobile app together, are wonderfully effective tools for recording large amounts of information easily. We also record the numbers of animals and birds sighted throughout our field work without any extra effort, which earlier would have required us to attract up particular datasheets, and take out extra time for the task.

To put it into perspective, whether we were to transform the entire Fulcrum data collected in the final 4 years into A4 data sheets, we would easily fill up a large lorry with the load and even perhaps more. The most amazing part is that we’re saving all this paper, reducing kilograms of trash and hours of manual labour simply by moving to one gadget half the size of an A4 sheet and an app that does many of the work for us.

All the way through our surveys in more than a few remote villages, when we bring out the tab to record the information, the locals are full of blameless curiosity, because this is something so new for them.

“What is this, sir?” they ask.

“This is so big, what do you do with it?”

“Can this cause us trouble or hurt us in any way?”

There are occasions when we’ve had to take a seat down and give an explanation for to them what the tablet is, and that it is simply a new way to gather information, and similar to a mobile phone. I remember the fact that’s where I came from, and I smile when I tell them not to worry or be scared of the unknown gadget.

People are continuously curious approximately the tablet and have a bunch of questions to ask
Photo Credit: NCF

Compiled and edited by Phalguni Ranjan.

Ganesha N. works as a Field Coordinator for the community-based conservation project in the Western Ghats Programme at Nature Conservation Foundation.

Sanjay Gubbi works as a scientist with the Western Ghats Programme at Nature Conservation Foundation.

Phalguni Ranjan is a marine biologist working as a science and conservation communicator with the Western Ghats Programme at NCF.

This series is an initiative by the Nature Conservation Foundation, under their programme Nature Communication to encourage nature satisfied in all Indian languages. If you are interested in writing on nature and birds, please fill up this form.

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