Smartphones in ecology and evolution: a guide for the app-rehensive


Smartphones and their apps (application software) are now used by millions of people worldwide and represent a powerful combination of sensors, information transfer, and computing power that deserves better exploitation by ecological and evolutionary researchers. We outline the development process for research apps, provide contrasting case studies for two new research apps, and scan the research horizon to suggest how apps can contribute to the rapid collection, interpretation, and dissemination of data in ecology and evolutionary biology. We emphasize that the usefulness of an app relies heavily on the development process, recommend that app developers are engaged with the process at the earliest possible stage, and commend efforts to create open-source software scaffolds on which customized apps can be built by nonexperts. We conclude that smartphones and their apps could replace many traditional handheld sensors, calculators, and data storage devices in ecological and evolutionary research. We identify their potential use in the high-throughput collection, analysis, and storage of complex ecological information.