Field season preparation can begin as soon as the budget for a project has been allocated, and can overlap with the design phase. To prepare for the field season, you will need to hire a crew, purchase all of the necessary field equipment, evaluate the sample points, and secure spots for crew members at a field methods training.
Crew hiring should begin 3-6 months before data collection is scheduled to begin. If help with other field season preparation activities is desired consider having the crew lead start earlier than the other technicians. Additional things to consider prior to initiating the hiring process are crew member housing and transportation options. If you are able to provide housing or a BLM vehicle for field work, you may have more hiring options than if you are not able to provide these items.
Work with your AIM State lead to determine your hiring options. Crew members can be hired either through contracting, an assistance agreement or the federal hiring system.
Click here to see a list of hiring tips from former project leads.
If you are planning on collecting data from supplemental indicators, you may need additional equipment that is not included in the equipment lists.
Tablets and electronic data capture software
Different types of tablets and software are used for terrestrial and aquatic AIM data collection.
The Terrestrial AIM Team at the National Operations Center (NOC) strongly encourages individual field offices to purchase their own tablets. See the Terrestrial Master Equipment List 2-9-17 for more details on tablet specifications.
Terrestrial AIM data has historically been collected using the Database for Inventory, Monitoring and Assessment (DIMA) on Windows-run tablets. DIMA is a highly customizable software tool for data collection, management, and interpretation. DIMA is a free Microsoft Access database that can easily be used without extensive knowledge of Access. Data can be entered for common, nationally accepted vegetation and soil monitoring methods in either English or metric units. Please note however, that AIM data for the core methods must be collected using using metric units as a requirement for data ingestion. You can download version 5.3 of DIMA here. For additional DIMA support please visit the following links:
Sometimes it is necessary to supplement electronic data with paper data sheets if a tablet crashes or is temporarily unavailable. Note that paper data sheets should not be used in lieu of electronic data capture and should be used for backup only. DIMA not only saves time but greatly increases the data quality! You can find pdf versions of the data forms here.
The lotic AIM data collection application is designed to run on iPad systems. Please see details on iPad requirements and setup to determine exactly what you need for electronic data capture. If securing an iPad becomes a barrier to collecting AIM data, it may be possible to borrow an iPad for the season from the NAMC. Please contact Jennifer Courtwright for more information on borrowing tablets.
Lotic AIM data is collected using the Stream And River Assessment Hub (SARAH) application. The SARAH application is a FileMaker iPad data application developed in conjunction with SAGEEnvironmentalResearch. Data entry in SARAH should be intuitive to the user if they are familiar with the field protocol. Most layouts closely match to the protocol and do not require additional explanation. SARAH also incorporates multiple layers of quality control (QC) checks to help ensure that data are as accurate as possible. All lotic AIM data should be collected using the SARAH application and any data recorded on paper data sheets must be entered into the SARAH application as soon as possible and prior to submitting final data for ingestion into AquADat.
The Lotic Technology and Applications Manual will assist those collecting Lotic AIM data in downloading and signing in to our communication and data collection applications, downloading and updating SARAH, sharing files and communicating with Team Members, preparing maps for field visits, field evaluation and data collection, and backing up and submitting data.
Download SARAH version 2.06 here
More information on iPad and SARAH use can be found in the Lotic Data Management and QAQC Protocol Crews should read this document thoroughly prior to collecting data and consult it throughout the field season as questions arise. The Lotic AIM Data Management Protocol illustrates and describes the main user interface screens of SARAH, the data entry workflow, and the built-in QA/QC checks to ensure that crews understand the errors and warnings that SARAH gives and when they can and can’t move on without resolving the errors. Finally, this protocol describes the data backup, pre-data submission meeting steps, and final submission processes, including the how to use the secondary field tracking system.
In addition to referencing the Lotic Data Management Protocol, users can also reference the downloading and updating SARAH video that is part of pre-training coursework or the collecting and submitting data with SARAH videos for more information on how to use SARAH.
SARAH is revised every year to address any quirks that arise throughout the field season, and to continually improve data QA/QC and data entry efficiency. Updates to the application can be made during the field season if any serious issues arise. Questions about iPad or SARAH use should be directed to Jennifer Courtwright (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Helpful Documents and Links