For over fifteen years, the otter conservation organisation “Aktion Fischotterschutz e. V.“ has been continuously collecting data on otter distribution. The evidence is collected from systematic surveys, random sampling and the collection of dead otters. Furthermore, a network of volunteers for data collection has been established. The volunteers are trained in frequent seminars and are essential contributers to the successful data collection. Government agencies and institutes also request collected data, and “Aktion Fischotterschutz e. V.” works closely with the Lower Saxony State Department for conservation (NLWKN) and other regional authorities.

Spatial distribution data are processed in a structured database and visualised as maps in a geographic information system (GIS). They form the foundation for strategies in scientific evaluations and surveys and for measures to protect the species. The intensive data collection of otters, their systematic processing and the continuity of data acquisition, are unique for mammals in Germany.

As the numbers of volunteers in conservation are generally declining, it is important to make activities attractive, innovative and user-friendly to increase motivation and numbers of volunteers. By providing an appropriate tool to support an effective digital data collection and data transfer, the amount of available data will significantly increase. In light of the recent movement “Citizen Science”, access to internet and the use of smartphones provide opportunities to significantly increase and expand the long-standing tradition of voluntary data collection.

Therefore, “Aktion Fischotterschutz e. V.” changed their otter collection system from laboriously completing a form by hand to data input via the web portal “OTTER SPOTTER”, also making it accessible to the public. “OTTER SPOTTER” was created by means of the conservation trust “Niedersächsische Bingo-Umweltstiftung”.

Technical implementation: IP SYSCON GmbH