Context. Worldwide, invasive vertebrate eradication campaigns are increasing in scale and complexity, requiring improved decision making tools to achieve and validate success. For managers of these campaigns, gaining access to timely summaries of field data can increase cost-efficiency and the likelihood of success, particularly for successive control-event style eradications. Conventional data collection techniques can be time intensive and burdensome to process. Recent advances in digital tools can reduce the time required to collect and process field information. Through timely analysis, efficiently collected data can inform decision making for managers both tactically, such as where to prioritise search effort, and strategically, such as when to transition from the eradication phase to confirmation monitoring.
Aims. We highlighted the advantages of using digital data collection tools, particularly the potential for reduced project costs through a decrease in effort and the ability to increase eradication efficiency by enabling explicit data-informed decision making.
Methods. We designed and utilised digital data collection tools, relational databases and a suite of analyses during two different eradication campaigns to inform management decisions: a feral cat eradication utilising trapping, and a rodent eradication using bait stations.
Key results. By using digital data collection during a 2-year long cat eradication, we experienced an 89% reduction in data collection effort and an estimated USD42 845 reduction in total costs compared with conventional paper methods. During a 2-month rodent bait station eradication, we experienced an 84% reduction in data collection effort and an estimated USD4525 increase in total costs.
Conclusions. Despite high initial capital costs, digital data collection systems provide increasing economics as the duration and scale of the campaign increases. Initial investments can be recouped by reusing equipment and software on subsequent projects, making digital data collection more cost-effective for programs contemplating multiple eradications.
Implications. With proper pre-planning, digital data collection systems can be integrated with quantitative models that generate timely forecasts of the effort required to remove all target animals and estimate the probability that eradication has been achieved to a desired level of confidence, thus improving decision making power and further reducing total project costs.