Geocaching Natural Features - Applying Game Mechanics to Citizen Science Data Collection

Science Center Objects

ScienceCache is a scientific geocaching mobile application framework that targets two user groups for citizen science data collection: youth and geocachers. By melding training and games into the hunt for place-based data collection sites and incorporating photo uploads as data and authentication, new volunteers can collaborate in robust data collection. Scientists build a project on the admini...

ScienceCache is a scientific geocaching mobile application framework that targets two user groups for citizen science data collection: youth and geocachers. By melding training and games into the hunt for place-based data collection sites and incorporating photo uploads as data and authentication, new volunteers can collaborate in robust data collection. Scientists build a project on the administrative Web site app, specifying locations or goals for new data collection sites, clues for established sites, questions to answer, measurements, or other activities for the site based on their individual data needs. The project builds on the success of the USA National Phenology Network (NPN) and the ScienceBase project to develop an enabling technology for citizen science and Federal data collection efforts. Two reference implementations, assessing phenology of bear foods in Glacier National Park and evaluating tree invasion into alpine meadows using repeat photography, will allow the project team to apply lessons-learned to future efforts. The project also seeks to develop new workflows allowing for more rapid project approval and data acquisition for government citizen science efforts.



Since the beginning of the project, the project team has encountered many scientists with an interest in using ScienceCache to collect data as part of their work. Potential data collection includes blueberry phenology, pollinator ecology, and fungi data collection.

Technical Approach and Methods

The technology behind ScienceCache builds on a service-oriented architecture. Power users (scientists and resource specialists) design a Trip, which is a data collection exercise that includes both waypoints or points of interest and one or more target areas for data collection. That Trip gets incorporated into a JavaScript Object Notation (JSON)-based configuration file. The designers can use any number of technologies to build this configuration file; the published design model allows developers to design their own JSON-builder.



All Trips are hosted on a ScienceCache gateway Web application, which will be publicly available at https://www.sciencebase.gov/sciencecache by October 2016, and the ScienceCache mobile application looks at the ScienceCache gateway to see what Trips are available to the user (the data collector) based on location. The user selects one of the Trips, and the ScienceCache mobile application downloads that configuration file from the gateway. The ScienceCache mobile application reads the JSON-based configuration file and converts it into a mobile-ready data entry form. The user follows the Trip designed by the power user, finding interesting sights along the way (fig. 4). At the target area(s), the user performs some Trip-specific data collection using the designed data entry form and image capture options (fig. 5). The user sends their collected data back to the ScienceCache gateway when he or she is in cell or wireless range. If the Trip involves phenology data, those observations are sent to the NPN via the NPN Web service. Data from the collection, available as Web services, can then feed project-specific portals.



This project contributes innovative mobile application design patterns to the USGS body of work. The framework as a whole will enable increased spatial and temporal data collection and increase engagement of the public in science across divisions. User privacy is a primary concern for this or any other data collection application. This project simplified the user workflow, eliminating any data that could be considered personal information.

This project supports the applications (mobile and Web), Web services (Web application and connections to ScienceBase), acquisition (through facilitation of citizen science data collection), and knowledge management (by enabling engagement of sectors of the public that may not otherwise be easily reached) elements of the CDI SSF.

Accomplishments

The accomplishments for the Geocaching Natural Features project were as follows:

  • “Monitoring Responses of Bear Foods to Climate Change through Citizen Science” poster was presented at the 53rd Annual Conference of the Montana Chapter of The Wildlife Society (Graves, Belt, and Boyd, 2015).
  • “ScienceCache—Engaging Citizen Scientists in Data Collection through Geocaching” poster was presented at the 2015 CDI Workshop and the Roundtable on the Crown of the Continent on September 14, 2015 (Graves, Long, and others, 2015).
  • Federal toolkit launch discussion appeared on #CitSciChat Tweet-up on October 7, 2015.
  • ScienceCache was referenced in the Third Open Government National Action Plan, "The USGS will roll out Science Cache, a Web and mobile-based application for engaging the public in citizen science projects, such as finding huckleberry plants in Glacier National Park and taking pictures and recording data to inform research on climate change impacts" (Office of Science and Technology Policy, 2015).

Expected Future Accomplishments

The project team anticipates completing the following future accomplishments:

  • Huckleberry phenology data via NPN.—Estimated availability mid-summer 2016
  • Tree invasion repeat photography on ScienceBase.—Estimated availability mid-summer 2016
  • ScienceCache code available at USGS Stash Repository.—Estimated availability spring 2016
  • ScienceCache administrative web application available at USGS Stash Repository.—Estimated availability spring 2016
  • ScienceCache mobile application available at USGS Stash Repository.—Estimated availability spring 2016
  • Techniques and methods report.—Designing an open-source, reusable mobile data collection framework by Dell Long, Tim Kern, and Tabitha Graves, with estimated availability in February 2016
  • Fact sheet.—ScienceCache.—Geocaching natural features to support citizen science data collection, location to be determined, with estimated availability fall 2016
  • Journal article.—ScienceCache.—Geocaching natural features to support citizen science data collection, Citizen Science in Theory and Practice Journal, fall 2016
  • Web siteScienceCache.—Engaging new citizen scientists, spring 2016
  • Journal article.—Temporal susceptibility of food resources for bears to climate change, Biological Conservation, December 2017





Note:   This description is from the Community for Data Integration 2015 Annual Report.