Forensic Laboratory uses custom app to study marine life in Arctic

Mote Environmental Laboratory for Forensics

The Mote Environmental Laboratory for Forensics operates in a unique field with unique challenges.

Overview

  • Marine research team uses custom app created on FileMaker Platform to transform the way they collaborate and manage data. Industry: Research.

Industry

Solutions

  • Partnered with FileMaker Business Alliance (FBA) partner to create custom app to manage research data better, share information in real time, and manage inventory.

Benefits

  • Research teams enjoy improved workflow, increased efficiency, and easier reporting.

The Mote Environmental Laboratory for Forensics operates in a unique field with unique challenges.

Each day, the laboratory’s research teams use their custom apps, built using the FileMaker Platform, to help scientists, explorers and marine conservation advocates study the age of baleen whales. Because baleen whales do not have teeth, an indicator commonly used to determine age, scientists must use other methods to discover how long these whales have lived. Current methods include inspecting whales’ eyes with help from indigenous people. Dr. Dana Wetzel, senior scientist at the laboratory, leads a team of more than 100 research scientists to conduct this research in the Arctic.

While in the past we had dozens of excel spreadsheets saved and no real way to tell which was most up to date, now we have a centralized location with live updates. Also, with the software's capability of tracing activities of users, instrument calibration data, and most up to date SOPs, it has also made following QA protocols so much easier.

Problem: Inefficient processes and complex data management requirements

Field researchers often work thousands of miles from where data is being collected. They need an efficient way to perform field analysis and store collected pictures, forms, and data. Because internet connection is sparse in the Arctic, research information often has to be collected and stored offline before it can be synced with a research database back in the laboratory.

Prior to adopting their custom app, the forensics laboratory used a sea of spreadsheets to calculate and organize complex data. These spreadsheets required time-consuming manual aggregation of massive amounts of data.

When research teams considered a solution that could increase accuracy and efficiency, they looked for a tool that could enter, calculate, organize and display results. In addition to running analyses, the scientists needed an efficient system manage its inventory of thousands of physical samples, batches, analytes, standards and solvents.

The laboratory also desired a system that could generate, print, and scan barcodes for each item to identify specific information.

DocuWrx, a FileMaker Business Alliance (FBA) partner, visited the Mote Environmental Laboratory for Forensics in Florida to identify workflows and challenges affecting operations. After a discovery process, DocuWrx compiled a detailed and itemized quote. Once the proposal was accepted, and in close collaboration with the lab, a DocuWrx Solutions Architect carefully laid out the design of the laboratory’s custom app.

After approval of the design, DocuWrx developers started the actual building process. Employing the Agile Development Method throughout the process provided adaptive planning and development. Laboratory staff were able to view and test the custom app during development, offering valuable feedback.

With the build complete, the Solutions Architect met with the laboratory to provide an overview of the custom app, and demonstrate how specific workflows and functions were accomplished. After launch, a designated account manager was assigned to provide continual support.

Results: improved mobility, efficiency, and analytics

Today, field researchers able to prepare forms and documents using their mobile devices anywhere in the world. Once in the field, research teams can take samples, record data and take pictures using the app on their iPhone or iPad devices. Until internet connection is available, all multimedia assets are stored in an app on the device, and the app’s data is later synced to the laboratory’s database. As information is organized efficiently during collection, it is automatically organized in the database for easy access by scientists in Florida.

Of course, processing collected information into meaningful data is at the heart of the operation. Taking into account everything from instrument calibrations, protocols, methods, revisions, complex formulas, the laboratory now has a solution to lift a significant burden from the scientists’ shoulders. Replacing pre-existing spreadsheets with a custom app for data calculation and storage was a major benefit to the teams. Using collected and entered data, the custom app is able to accurately perform complex calculations taking into account several variables.

The custom app is also able to track different instrument calibrations adding in specific protocols, methods, and revisions. It then is able to automatically run an analysis, and store the resulting data in a clear way that can be accessed by doing a query in any way across a data set. The lab now has an improved way to handle and share an unlimited amount of information, documents, and reports.

Thousands of physical inventory items are now managed in an organized and efficient way. The app has the ability to generate, print, and scan 1D and 2D barcodes, not only to identify a sample and description, but also provide a physical inventory location. These bar codes are also used to track batches, standards, solvents and more. With better tracking, storing, and identification, the laboratory’s workflow has improved.

"Our custom [app] has greatly improved our data management,” said Christelle Abadia, senior chemist at The Mote Environmental Laboratory for Forensics.

While in the past we had dozens of excel spreadsheets saved and no real way to tell which was most up to date, now we have a centralized location with live updates. Also, with the software's capability of tracing activities of users, instrument calibration data, and most up to date SOPs, it has also made following QA protocols so much easier.

The laboratory now enjoys quicker and more mobile data collection, faster and organized information sharing, improved data processing, and effortless inventory management.

To learn more about the FileMaker Platform, download your free trial. To learn how to build your first custom app, visit the Custom App Academy to watch a series of free educational video tutorials.

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Forensic Laboratory uses custom app to study marine life in Arctic