If we could have planned the worst time for a technical issue with the backend (where the app sends data) to occur, it would have been from Friday 16th and for a few days afterwards.  Why?  Well, because this coincided with our biggest press coverage yet – appearing on the One Show.  Unfortunately for us, this is exactly when the issue occurred which meant that no-one using the app was able to submit data!  Eeek!  Sorry if you were one of them!

We’re left wondering how many of the several thousand new users of the app gave up and haven’t been back since… hopefully, not many.

The issue has now been resolved and on the plus side, taught us a lesson or two.

App featured on the One Show

After a few false starts, the One Show made contact with the project and asked to record a piece about the horse chestnut leaf miner moth for their show on Friday 16th.  Project members Michael Pocock (Uni of Bristol) and Darren Evans (Uni of Hull) did a sterling job of discussing the problem and even managed to demo the app.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kShMT2AK9kQ

Their appearance led to a large spike in downloads and on the Saturday we had 1300 downloads which propelled the app to Number 1 in the UK Free Education app chart.

One Show Appearance

One Show Appearance

I was interviewed yesterday by Anna Hill from BBC Radio 4’s Farming Today programme about the Horse Chestnut Leaf Miner and our app: Leaf Watch.

Interview available until 20th Sept (from 6.03 – 8.50 mins) at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/console/b014flfy

farming today

BBC Radio 4 Farming Today interview

I was working from home yesterday, which was fortunate as I had a phone call from a reporter from the Sunday Times interested in the Leaf Watch app and in crowd sourcing.

She wanted to speak to a “real” user of the app also, which proved more of a challenge than it seemed it should – but then we don’t routinely collect personal information on those using it – so it pretty much had to be someone known to one of the team.  However, we got there in the end and they interviewed our star user on the phone and are sending a photographer round this morning!!

The article, the exact nature of which I’m unsure, will feature in the News section this Sunday with any luck.

I wrote an article about the horse chestnut leaf miner which is featured in Wiltshire Magazine (Aug/Sept edition).  People are often aware there’s a problem but don’t necessarily know what the cause is.  Mangaged to plug the app too of course.

Leaf miner article

Leaf miner article

Is it in Scotland yet??

There was a real flurry of excitement yesterday when we analysed the spattering of Scottish records we’d received.

We had 60 or so records from Scotland, many of which showed heavily mined horse chestnut leaves – the first instance of horse chestnut leaf miner moths being recorded in Scotland (as far as we know).  However, the excitment was short lived as we realised the data had thrown a wobbly whilst being exported.  We re-analysed it.  No Scottish horse chestnut leaf miner records yet from the app…..

We really need more records from Scotland (and also West Wales and the South West of England).  Whether or not your horse chestnut trees have leaf mines, we want to see the records.  So if you’re an Android or iPhone smart phone owner and you live in Scotland please download and submit records of all horse chestnut trees in your area!


4000 uploads and counting

Well, the app is really proving its worth.  Today we received the 4000th upload which is fantastic, given the short time we had to tell people about its existence.

We’ve recently exported the latest data gathered by our app “Leaf Watch” into a Google Fusion table.  This enables you to map the data very easily and has shown us quite clearly the distribution of records.

I hesitate to say that it reflects the true distribution of the moth but it certainly gives us a pretty good idea.

The distribution of records also happens to match what we were expecting – a good spread of records across southern and central areas of the country but tailing off in the far west and north.

Map showing distribution of records received

Map showing distribution of records received


Another feature I like about the mapping in the Google Fusion Tables tool is the ability to display data as a heat map – therefore, to show not just the distribution of records but also their density.  Not surprisingly, the majority of records are from major centers of population in the south and central areas of the country.

Heat map showing geographical "density" of records received

Heat map showing geographical "density" of records received


A smaller scale view gives a slightly clearer picture:

Smaller scale version of the heat map showing geographical "density" of records received

Smaller scale version of the heat map

Today we broke the 3000 submission mark from the app!  That’s about 1000 submissions since my last post 11 days ago – really encouraging stuff.

With the app doing exactly what it’s supposed to, the project is now turning its attention to how to draw on the power of the masses to check and verify the data collected.  I’m really excited about this phase of the project and feel that if it works we will have a great model to show other people interested in collecting large quantities of field data where the logistics of validating records is too much for a single person or team.

The biologists on the project are also making links with a team at the University (of Bristol) who is developing a computer program capable of identifying plant leaf diseases.  Our data might well be a great test for their product and it could add a whole new dimension of automation to the workflow.  Not sure how it will cope with the pictures of people’s faces, and other body parts though……


This week we exceeded 2000 submissions from the app.

Having had a quick look through the images in Google’s App engine there are very few… how can I put it… , erroneous images.

We’ve acquired several pictures of couples (bless), one of a 9 year old’s birthday party (ahhh) – you can tell her age from the cake in case you were wondering, a couple of random icons, a few hands, a foot, and one bottom – I suspect male but I wasn’t prepared to investigate beyond the thumbnail view; it wasn’t a pretty sight even at that resolution.

All in all it seems we’re actually managing to attract the right kind of people with the app and they’re doing a splendid job (bottoms aside).

Sample of submissions made using the Leaf Watch app

Sample of submissions made using the Leaf Watch app

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