CyberTracker & Tracking Evaluations

CyberTracker & Tracking Evaluations

Originating in South Africa in 1994, CyberTracker Tracker Evaluations are conducted across Africa, began in the USA in 2007, and have since then spread to Canada and Europe. CyberTracker is the only organization to offer a standardized testing format in tracking. While not all of the best trackers in the world are certified by the CyberTracker system, the system does give us a means to identify the skill level of those who have participated, and this pool of evaluated experts should include the people we are using to collect reliable track-based data for conservation decisions.

The Tracker Evaluation has two parts: Track & Sign Identification, and Trailing.

TRACK & SIGN IDENTIFICATION

PROCESS

CyberTracker Track and Sign Identification Evaluations are divided into a lower band evaluation and an upper band evaluation, where participants have to score 100% on a lower Band evaluation before they are invited to participate in a more difficult upper band evaluation. A lower band evaluation consists of 50 questions (10 easy, 30 medium difficulty, and 10 difficult); an upper band evaluation consists of approximately 70 difficult to very difficult questions. A trained evaluator, who has gone through the evaluation process and is himself an evaluated expert tracker, facilitates each evaluation.

Each evaluation typically takes two days in-the-field to complete. The evaluator identifies and marks a track, or a series of tracks, or a scat, or some other sign; he generally marks 5-7 questions at a station, and writes the answers on score sheet for reference.

TABLE 1. Examples of questions asked in two typical stations at a CyberTracker Track & Sign Identification evaluation. Questions include: identification of the makers of tracks and sign, including mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians, forces of nature, and human-related; interpretation of specific behaviors evidenced in tracks and sign, numbers of individuals; and the approximate age of tracks and sign.

STATION 1

Question Number

Question Answer

1

Who made these tracks? scrub hare

2

How is #1 moving? bounding

3

Which foot (#1)? left front foot

4

Who’s scat is this? African civet

5

Who made this mark on the tree? blue wildebeest

6

What is the purpose of the mark in #4? dominant male marking territory

7

What made this mark? Brush-cutter (human)

STATION 2

Question Number

Question Answer

8

Who’s skull? zebra

9

Was #8 male or female? female

10

What is this? bagworm larval case

11

Who made these tracks? impala

12

How many animals passed through the circle (#11)? five

13

Who’s track? Egyptian goose

14

What made this mark? lightning

Participants are invited to look at the questions in small groups and to take as much time as they need to determine the answers at a station. They may not discuss the questions or use outside tools or reference materials to arrive at an answer (measuring tapes, books, etc.). Participants may move from question to question within a station but they may not leave a station without submitting their answers to the evaluator and once they leave the station for another station they may not go back to the first one. When participants have come to a conclusion, they either whisper the answer in the evaluator’s ear or write their answer on a piece of paper and show it to the evaluator, who records all of their answers on the score sheet for the appropriate question, under their name. After all participants have given their answers the evaluator reviews each question, explaining to the group of participants what the correct answers are, and comparing any incorrect answers to the correct answer by describing differences in morphology, measurement, behavior, content, etc. In this way the participants receive not just the correct answer, but the evaluation also serves as an effective educational process providing immediate feedback on why their answer was right or wrong, and how to tell the correct answer from several other incorrect ones{{27 Evans,Jonah W. 2009}}, {{1221 Wharton, Ciel Amy 2006}}. Participants may ask as many questions of the evaluator as necessary for them to understand why the correct answer can only be the answer the evaluator is seeking. Questions for which the answer is not provable, or for which participants can introduce new evidence that provides reasonable doubt to the answer, must be thrown out or generalized to include both possible answers.

SCORING QUESTIONS

Each question is rated according to its degree of difficulty, with a 1 point question being the least difficult and a 3 point question being the most difficult (see TABLE 2). Participants are penalized more for getting an easy question wrong than for getting a difficult question wrong, and receive more points for getting a difficult question right than for getting an easy question right. For example: If a participant gets an easy question (1 point) wrong, they are penalized three points, whereas if they get it right they receive one point; likewise, if they get a difficult question (3 point) wrong they are only penalized one point but if they were to get the same question right they would receive three points. A medium difficulty question (2 point) yields two points when correct, or minus two points when incorrect.

TABLE 2

Level of Difficulty Correct Incorrect
1 1 -3
2 2 -2
3 3 -1

A “bonus” question (a “three plus pointer”) question is considered extremely difficult. Bonus questions are only allowed in upper band evaluations. A bonus question does not count against a participant if they get it wrong, but it counts as .333% of a point if they get it right and thus three correct bonus questions have the potential to cancel out one incorrect answer in the overall evaluation. There are usually seven potential bonus questions in an upper band evaluation, therefore there is potential for a participant to get two 3 point questions wrong and still score 100% as long as the participant also gets at least six of the seven bonus questions correct.

DETERMINING DEGREE OF DIFFICULTY

Questions are easy (1 point) when they are large, clear, and there are no similar answers to the question that could be mistakenly identified. Questions are moderately difficult (2 point) when they are medium sized, require some basic behavioral interpretation, are not absolutely well-defined (for example: they are old, wind-blown or in deep mud), or have one or more similar answers to the question that could be mistakenly identified. Questions are difficult (3 point) when they are small, unusual, partial, old to very old, degraded, require advanced behavioral interpretation, or have many similar answers to the question that could be mistakenly identified. 1-3 point questions are typically well-documented in field guides, animal behavior guides, or in scientific literature. In South Africa the standard reference used for the correct identification of tracks is A Field Guide to the Animal Tracks of Southern Africa {{1019 Liebenberg, Louis 1990}}. Bonus questions (3 plus points) are extremely difficult. They are usually based on highly atypical tracks or sign, or on a newly discovered or undocumented track or sign that arises from direct observation of (in the past or present) of the track or sign being made.

FINAL SCORE

The final score for each participant is calculated by adding the number of points from incorrect questions and dividing that by the total number of points correct + incorrect (EQUATION A).

EQUATION A

(#points correct) / ((#points correct) + (#points incorrect)) = (decimal score x 100) = %

FIGURE 3 shows the increasing levels of certification awarded to participants for achieving increasingly more accurate overall scores. In the lower band evaluations scoring is as follows: between 70-79% accuracy results in a Level 1 certification; between 80-89% accuracy results in a Level 2 certification; between 90-99% accuracy results in a Level 3 certification; 100% accuracy results in a Professional level certification and an invitation to attend an upper band evaluation. In an upper band evaluation a participant who scores anything less than 100% remains in the Professional certification rank, while a score of 100% or higher (with bonus questions) results in a Specialist certification rank.

CyberTracker, Track and Sign, Tracker Evaluation
CyberTracker TandS Eval Figure

FIGURE 3. Levels of certification awarded to participants in a CyberTracker Track and Sign Identification evaluation. The most basic level awarded starts at 70% accuracy (level 1) and increases through 100% accuracy (Professional) in a lower band evaluation; after achieving a 100% in a lower band evaluation, a participant is invited to the more rigorous upper band evaluation. Upper band evaluations have only one level, based on a pass/fail basis: if a participant scores less than 100% they do not pass and remain at the Professional level; if a participant scores 100% or more (with bonus questions) they achieve the rank of Specialist.

TRAILING 

PROCESS (Under Construction)

Click here to go to the CyberTracker website and learn more, or click here to find a CyberTracker evaluation or a Certified Tracker in the USA.

 

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