The 85th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2016)

Ethoinformatics II: Developing Open-Source Digital Data Services for Behavioral Field Research


1Department of Anthropology, University of Texas at Austin, 2Department of Anthropology, Washington University, 3Freelance Software Developer, Ethoinformatics Project, 4Interactive Telecommunications Program, New York University

April 14, 2016 1:15, A 602 Add to calendar

One of the significant challenges for modern field researchers in the biological sciences involves collecting and managing large volumes of data of many distinct types, including systematic behavioral observations, digital photographs/audio/video, morphometrics, climatological records, voucher collections, and qualitative notes, all of which are usually associated with date, time, location, and other metainformation. Here, we describe the in-progress development of a framework of software tools and digital data services for addressing this challenge. This effort builds upon a core vocabulary (EthoCore) and data model (EthoGrammar) created with feedback from a large community of primate field biologists (the Ethoinformatics Working Group).

Central to this framework are two components. The first is a customizable open-source software application for collecting location-stamped data in real time using the EthoCore vocabulary. This application is capable of running on various mobile platforms and is designed to work in remote field conditions where researchers often have inconsistent access to the Internet. The application stores data in a schema-agnostic, document-based “NoSQL” data archive, which is versatile enough to accommodate diverse existing data models. The second component is a web-based administrative panel that allows users to manage data exchange and synchronization across multiple handheld devices as well as local and remote servers. All of these data services are being developed to operate using the same fundamental technologies and information transfer protocols that underlie the functioning of the modern Internet (HTML5, CSS, JavaScript, HTTP/REST) and are being offered to the community as open-source tools for adoption and modification.

The Ethoinformatics Project is supported by NSF grants SMA 1338524, SMA 1338467, and SMA 1338452.