by Alice Fang
After working on Macroinvertebrates.org for two summers and four semesters, it feels crazy that I’ll be leaving the project. As my very last blog post, I’ll be recapping some of the (final) work that I did this semester.
One major artifact I worked on was an online poster for the CitSciVirtual 2021 Conference! With Marti and Camilla, we submitted a poster about Macroinvertebrates.org as “A Digital Tool for Supporting Identification Activities During Water Quality Biomonitoring Trainings.” You can access the poster here.
As part of management work for the mobile app, I condensed and revised the descriptions for each insect order, making the content more novice-friendly and less technical. I also dug around iNaturalist for some Creative Commons License images of every insect order, finding hero images for the overview page of each order. I'll be leaving behind my master-list spreadsheet of every specimen's common and scientific names (and more) and hopefully it will be useful for future bug designers as well!
Pollution tolerance has always been a tricky part of the database—how reliable is it at the order level? What's the best language to use: sensitive/insensitive to pollution, or tolerant/intolerant to pollution? It's still not the most resolved design, but I proposed a layout where pollution tolerance sits at the bottom of the overview page—if you read the paragraph description, it leads you into the information about pollution tolerance, providing you more context on perhaps why or how the insect is sensitive or insensitive. (Also, some header tweaking—good headers are super useful in providing context!)
Family-level pollution tolerance is more complicated—what do these pollution tolerance values even mean? I've always wanted to use a data visualization to represent the ranges of sensitivity, and maybe this is a component that can be iterated on in the future :-) The following example was quickly mocked up in Figma for demonstration purposes, and not the best data viz—but some representation of the numerical ranges that allows someone to visually compare from region to region would be useful I think! (Again, more informative headers! "Regional Pollution Tolerances")
Another major bit of work that I started was trying to figure out how to incorporate the few non-insects, which are used in water monitoring and training, into the structure of the mobile app. The challenge here is that the non-insects aren't grouped as nicely under one Class like the insects are (under Class Insect); instead, they are representatives of several different Classes. Neither the site nor the app currently support Class-level categorizations, and so I had to decide how much of the existing architecture could be shifted to show these separations. In the end, to simplify the content, I removed the nested 'family' page and only showed the non-insect order-level page—the database also has very little content in the first place for non-insects.
The following are some design recommendations for work that I did in December and February.
Working on Macroinvertebrates.org has been such fulfilling and rewarding work, and I'm honored that I got to contribute so much to an open-sourced educational tool. I've learned a lot these past 3(?) years, and tried a lot of things, and realized I'm a lot better at spreadsheets than I previously knew. This project has been such a formative part of my undergrad experience, which I'll carry with me as I start a fellowship at the New York Times this June. I'll definitely miss Marti and Chris and the rest of the (very small) team!
An interdisciplinary team