CRM + Wildnote: Best Practices

Tips and tricks for the most efficient way to use Wildnote to record archaeological sites in the field and save time later on report preparation.

Using Wildnote to efficiently record archaeological sites in the field begins in the office before your teams even enter the field. Here are some best practices to guide you when setting up a project, working in the field, and writing the report. 

Pre-fieldwork Set-up:

  1. Default Information: After adding all the forms from the Wildnote library to your project, identify all questions that will always/almost always have the same answer (ie County, Managing Agency, Project Name, Crew Members, etc.). You can pre-fill this information before recording begins to ensure that the data is entered in the forms exactly the way you want it. In cases where the field data is different, the field crew can simply modify it! Check out this article for how to enter default information: Speed Up Field Data Entry with Default Answers
  2. Helper Text: You can give your crews all the training in the world, but, they will still forget things sometimes. Use helper text to add templates for the question answers, required information, and anything else you would like to remind them of while in the field. Access helper text by editing the individual questions in the "Survey Form" section of your project.
  3. Reference Materials: Upload previously recorded site forms, reference materials for historic and prehistoric artifacts, and any other items the crew may need to reference in the Project Documents section. Pro Tip: Create a separate project for artifact reference materials that apply to multiple projects, and assign anyone who may need those materials to them. Then, you don't need to upload them for each new project!
  4. Project Locations: Pre-load site locations so they are already in the drop down menu for crews to pick from. This can include both previously recorded sites, and temporary numbers for new sites. Also, include the coordinates for previously recorded sites, and all crew members can see them on Wildnote’s map view - no need for a separate app or GPS! For more on how to use Project Locations, check out the article: Utilize the Power of Project Locations.
  5. Isolated Finds: Add the Isolated Find form to your project, and your field crew can record isolates directly into Wildnote. At the end of the project, you can export both a pivot table with all the data, and a KML file with the points. No need to sort through GPS data to compile them all!
  6. Training: Since the data is already being entered digitally, teach your crew members to enter data in the way that it will appear in the final site form/report. If you require a complete sentence as the answer to a question, be sure and communicate that. Prefer "CCS" instead of "Chert" or vice versa - make sure people know the correct terminology to decrease QA/QC time later.
  7. Wildnote-specific training: Plan to spend time with crew members new to Wildnote training them on how the platform works. As with all software, there is a learning curve and help ensure the success of your field members by having them practice entering data on wildnote before beginning fieldwork. Send this article to your new crew members to help them set-up and sync for the first time: Getting Started With the Mobile App


Supplying devices and supporting hardware to your field crew is key to digital data collection success. Here’s our recommendations:

  1. Tablets: When considering purchasing tablets for your company, be sure they have antennas. For iPads, this means they must be “cellular + GPS” and for android the brands and models vary so check the product specs. This is extremely important because the points taken with Wildnote (without an external antenna) will NOT be accurate unless the device has an antenna! Phones always have an antenna, so consider having your supporting crew members use their personal devices.
  2. Tablet Cases: Physically protect your devices with a good case that is appropriate for the environment you are working in. Lifeproof and Otterbox have great water, dust and shock proof options!
  3. External GNSS device: Wildnote supports Trimble R1 and EOS Arrow devices. If you choose to use one consider how you will use it. Will it be your primary mapping device? If so, you may find that you can’t also use Wildnote on that device since it is occupied with mapping. Therefore, you can’t take advantage of the accuracy for Wildnote points, unless you have multiple antennas. In that case, there is always an option to manually type in coordinates in Wildnote.  Remember, Wildnote has a powerful KML export, and the coordinates can be exported to excel as well. Consider collecting the coordinates for artifacts and features on the same device that records the descriptions.
  4. External Battery: Wildnote as well as mapping apps use a lot of power. Make sure and bring an external power source so you can charge in the field as required. Also, make sure and plug the device in when you are in the vehicle for lunch or between transects!

During Fieldwork:

  1. Immediate Feedback: Once fieldwork begins, verify that the crew is collecting data in the format you want daily or weekly, and give them immediate feedback. No more going back to a project area days or weeks later because something was forgotten!
  2. Survey Status: Use Survey Status to communicate when forms are complete, or need more work. We like Draft to mean the field crew is still working on it; Submitted to mean the field crew is done with the form;  Reviewed to mean the project manager has approved the form; and Open Issues to mean the project manager has found an issue with the form. For more on using Status’ check out this article
  3. Dropped Points: Remember, all points dropped with Wildnote are as accurate as the device taking them. For most phones and tablets, this is 3-5m. Also, you need consistency between Wildnote and the device collecting the GIS data (ie Trimble), and may want to enter that data directly into Wildnote while in the field. For items that need sub-meter accuracy (ie datum, tools) you can either enter the coordinates manually in the field from a sub-meter accuracy unit, or use a compatible external antenna (Trimble R1 or EOS Arrow)  to increase the accuracy of your device. 
  4. Syncing: One of the biggest challenges to collecting data on an offline mobile device, is syncing it to the cloud. The best practice is to one-way sync all data from your device at the end of the field day. If you have poor service or WiFi (hotel WiFi is notoriously bad!) then it may take several attempts for the sync to work. Just keep trying! Then, the following morning, complete a Project Sync, a two way sync which will bring in any changes to the project made by other crew members. For more info, check out this article: Sync Smart - Digital Workflow for Project Managers.

Report Writing:

  1. Reset the Statuses: Using the Search function, change the status of a survey form type to Draft. Then, as you finalize the forms and add any missing info, you can change the status to Submitted or Reviewed, to indicate they are complete. Check out this article to learn how to bulk change the status on a form type. 
  2. Editable Grid: The editable grid is a very powerful tool for QA/QC. Use it to quickly verify data accuracy and enter missing data into text or number fields without opening the survey. This is particularly helpful for entering USGS Map, Geographic Unit, etc. which often aren't entered in the field. If you do need to open a form, click the survey ID and it opens in a separate tab ready to edit!
  3. Update Location Names: After you receive the official site numbers from the agencies you are working with, you can add them to the Location name for easy cross reference later. Just be sure that the first number listed is the one you plan to use when sorting the forms. For example: on a NV project with temporary field numbers, USFS #s, and Smithsonian Trinomials, the lead agency is the USFS, so that number is listed first.
  4. Export: When you are ready to export, save the link to the specific export for your project as a favorite in your browser so you can get back to the export screen quickly. This will speed up your time when exporting a batch of site forms at the same time!