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iGoTerra

…the way to go?

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With the ever increasing data coverage and monumental rise in cloud-based filing is it time to abandon that listing software or app and go over to having all your records available to modify on-line?

There are, of course, advantages and disadvantages and sometimes it comes down to personal preferences, but there is no doubt that on-line solutions have recently come a very long way.

One of the things that has often irked me about listing apps is that there is an assumption that its all about listing every bird seen on every outing, from which other lists like year or county lists are generated. I guess that’s great for the average lister, but I am sure I am not alone in keeping very few lists… in my case, UK, UK Year, my County, country and World lists. With an overseas trip one might well want to aid your memory by keeping a daily tally site by site. On the other hand the I am likely to want to just add the odd tick here or there to existing year of county lists and its often a long-winded system.

Moreover, more and more birders want to keep lists of other taxa… many start with Butterflies or Dragonflies, but then find themselves wanting to list everything from fungi to fish.

Our pastime has also blossomed and very many of us photograph what we see and want to keep our photographic records alongside mere ‘ticks’.

iGoTerra offers cloud-based services to record, manage and share all their wildlife observations, lists, photos and trips. They asked me to test the system to see if it met my needs to and I was pleasantly surprised that among its complex offer it could not only cater for my minimalist needs but also keep tabs on the ever changing world of taxonomy for me. No longer do I need to trawl through the web to see what’s been split or lumped by DNA sequencing, iGoTerra will update my lists automatically! I can even chose which checklist authority I want to be guided by (in my case IOC). Not only are the species themselves updated but the system is too and you don’t have to wait for a CD to arrive nor download an upgrade to the app… it all goes on in the background for you.

Cloud-based services do, of course, offer many advantages.

Firstly, and most obviously someone else is constantly backing up your data for you. How many of us have fallen foul of some horrible computer crash and lost weeks or oven year’s worth of data. It just isn’t going to happen when its all being professionally stored, backed up and mirrored.

Then there is the great advantage of access to all your data anytime from anywhere on almost any device. Somewhere in a Panamanian hotel overlooking the entrance to the canal is my lost list of two week’s worth of birding in Panama and a week before hand in Texas. Luckily, I am more likely to forget my own name than the birds I saw on a trip, but not having all the details of the localities made writing up a trip report all the harder.

For those of you who are interested in such things there is also crowdsourcing; all the public data from the other iGoTerra users can also be accessed.

If you want to list the fish or photograph plants iGoTerra is a great way to manage them all. it can be difficult to keep track of all the information and numbers as the different lists grow. iGoTerra is a most powerful tool manage all the lists you want to keep track of. Birds of course, but also Mammals, Plants, Butterflies, they have them all and you can keep lists for each and every country, state and even your own backyard! 

The versatile interface recognises that different folks need different strokes. So its more than likely that you’ll find what you're looking for: you can choose to follow Clements or IOC, to record and manage your lists per countries, regions, states and even US counties, per day, per month, per year, its up to you. You can create a special list for your local patch, for birds you found yourself and any other personal list you can think of. You can choose to have all your record public or keep all private or even just hide ‘sensitive’ observations of protected species etc.

One of the features I like most is the iGoTerra, behind the scenes helps you stay at the forefront of taxonomy.  There is another feature on the premium membership version that suggests subspecies based on location to enable you to retrospectively sort your observations that way in case of future splits. This is especially useful for world listers, as it can deliver ‘armchair’ ticks when Clements or IOC is updated without you needing to lift a finger.

Competitive listers can even compare their lists with other members, such as your friends or some of the top listers in your area to see how you stand up. Bear in mind that members lists are public by default and the display of other people’s lists will feature a green dot if you have also seen that species.

Observations and ticks can be uploaded in different ways. Most people choose to record in real time in the field via iGoTerra Pocket, a free app to record and share all your observations in the field anywhere in the world. So you can carry your life lists and your even your ‘hit lists’ in your pocket, add your record with your precise location and synchronise and share all your observations in one click (its available from both Appstore and GooglePlay).

One of the real binds when pondering a change of listing software, and what keeps many of us adding to really outdated programmes is the thought of having to add all your old records piecemeal. iGoTerra have thought of this and have an Import function. There are standard import interfaces for eBirds, Avisys, Birdbase and a few others and any member can create itheir own template. When observations are in an excel sheet (or a .csv file), iGoTerra can do it all for you: In a few clicks, all your observations are transferred to your account for you to review, edit and update to the latest version of one of the official checklists. That really is all your observations not just birds.

Photos are organised along the tree of life and the geographic location. I’m told that this neat feature is not only handy to bring order to your gallery of pictures, but also makes iGoTerra the only website where you can sort pictures by area and taxonomy in one click. I can’t vouch for this not being a photographer.

The thing that actually got me interested in iGoTerra in the first place is that you can create meaningful ‘hit lists’ that combine your data with checklists. Wherever you go, you can edit your own country checklist featuring the species or subspecies you have seen and the ones you have not. Your checklist features the endemics and even the plate number of your field guide! Your annotated checklist is ready to be printed if you want it on paper or ready to be ticked in excel if you stay digital. If you use the smartphone app iGoTerra Pocket; your lists, observations, lifers and year ticks are always with you and instantly accessible.

It even helps you select the trip destination, iGoTerra computes numbers and lists of potential lifers per country. The longer the list of lifers, the more potentially rewarding the trip could be! It also shows target bird families and genus and the top 3 countries where these birds can be found. 

One last thing I’ve just learned, the unique iGoTerra set of tools is now used by Rockjumper, BirdQuest and a number of other tour operators to manage their lists. That’s going to mean that if you forget to add your own observation a look at the lists they send out with their trip reports might jog your memory.

So, am I sold on the idea? The answer is very nearly. I like the features, but will use very few of them as I just don’t create many lists. I like the idea that someone is taking the hard work out of keeping my life list up to date with taxonomic changes and I love the fact that there is a quick and easy way to create ‘hit lists’ when contemplating travel. The only disadvantage I can see is that the more you want from it the more likely you are to go for the ‘standard’ (€23) or ‘premium’ (€57) versions rather than the ‘Basic’ free version..

19th June 2016