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Notes from the VWJD tutorial

I gave this tutorial on 12 October, 2012 at the University of Bonn as part of the annual meeting of the German Union of Game Biologists (Vereinigung der Wildbiologen und Jagdwissenschaftler Deutschlands e.V.). It was part of a day-long workshop for young scientists—there were about 25 participants, most were graduate students or recently out of graduate school with a working knowledge of animal tracking methods and data. A handful had used Movebank previously.

Prior to the workshop I sent out some basic information and instructions for putting their own data on Movebank ahead of time, so they could ask me questions about their own projects during the meeting. Before starting the tutorial, I gave a 30-minute presentation introducing Movebank. It took the participants about 2:45 to complete the tutorial, working in pairs.

See the documents "VWJD Workshop Tutorial" and "Movebank workshop overview" for the materials we used.

Some tips for future tutorials:

- It may be a good idea to identify some suggestions for good studies to check out when browsing the database, depending on who is attending and what species/regions they're likely to be interested in. Very large studies take a while to load, and it's not fun when everyone is waiting around for the tracks to display (we're working on improving performance, but it will likely continue to take a while to load studies with gigabytes of data). In addition, sometimes data owners haven't fully filtered or organized their data, in which case the "tracks" won't properly reflect the animals' movements and won't make much sense.

- For this workshop I created a single username and password for the whole group to use. This is helpful because I can go in afterwards and easily make sure all the studies are deleted from the database. If everyone creates their own username, and not everyone deletes their new study after the tutorial, then we end up with unwanted studies. This worked well, but there are a couple of things to watch out for:
   (1) I started by having us all log in at the same time, and this caused a hickup somewhere, and not everyone was initially able to sign in. I'm not sure whether this was due to a problem with our server or something else. So I would recommend making sure not everyone is clicking the login button simultaneously (more on this below). 
   (2) Since everyone is using the same username, everyone will have access to each other's data. I had each pair of students create their own study with a last name to identify it. In general this worked fine, however one group had some confusion when they accidentally re-uploaded the same files to one of the other studies rather than the one they had created. You may notice this is happening if a group finds that Movebank has already recognized and mapped all of the columns in their data file—this indicates that someone has already saved the same file format to the study, i.e., they already uploaded the same file.

- I initially planned to have the whole group go through the first few steps together and then continue on their own. As mentioned above, however, some students started getting errors or a frozen screen when we were all making the same selections simultaneously. (We weren't able to identify why this happened—If someone else tries this and does/does not have problems, please let me know!) At this point I decided to have the group work through the instructions in pairs, while I walked around and helped with questions. This worked quite well: We had no further errors, and the students were able to troubleshoot many of the questions they ran into by helping each other.

- I would strongly encourage tutorial leaders to work through the instructions themselves ahead of time. You'll be much more prepared to explain solutions to the problems that students will run into. Most problems illustrate exactly what we're trying to teach in the tutorial, so it's good to understand what's going on yourself and give them a quick explanation. For example,
   - Students may upload the tracking data and then find that they can't see their tracks on the map. This is because they have not yet told Movebank the species name and defined animals/deployments, and Movebank doesn't consider the data "tracks" if they haven't been associated with animals. They'll need to select Data > Show data in map (include undeployed) in order to see the uploaded data before they upload their reference data file. This is important from an archiving perspective: if a researcher uploads a load of GPS data but never says when they were deployed or what species they were on, the "data" can't be used for anything in the future.
   - There are a variety of problems that can come up students map the columns in the data files to Movebank terms incorrectly. For example, if they switch the longitude and latitude around, the data will obviously show up in the wrong place. One group uploaded their reference data file and then found that they had no deployed tracks. By looking in the Deployment Manager, we could see that they had accidentally uploaded the deployment end time as the deployment start time, so the deployment period didn't include any data.
   - Several times students thought they had a problem, but in fact they were doing everything exactly right. For example, they upload the data, define their deployments, but then are confused to find they still have some locations that don't look right. These are from errors in the GPS data that need to be marked as outliers, which is what they will do in the next step.