BackHome www.nervenet.org
MouSeek 1.0

by Caleb F. Davis
Jeff Noebels laboratory, Baylor College of Medicine

MouSeek is a relational database programmed using FileMaker Pro* v4.1. It was designed to function as an intuitive interface through which all information about a murine colony could be stored, searched, and printed out in an efficient manner. MouSeek.zip (downloaded file) contains all files both central and peripheral to usage of this program. This program was designed at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, TX by Caleb Davis, that's me.

The specific needs of our lab dictated the form and function of MouSeek, but, if necessary, its internal structure is flexible enough to be useful in a wide variety of applications. FileMaker provides the tools needed to tune MouSeek's performance to one's particular organizational concerns. I have listed (see "Getting Started" below) a few sites that have valuable information about relational databases in general, and FileMaker in particular. Also there is a Word document in MouSeek.zip called "Revision History" that I wrote while I was designing MouSeek. These sources of information cover the basic vocabulary and skills necessary to use MouSeek and FMPro effectively. Feel free to tinker with the program, and contact me if you have any questions or suggestions. If there is enough interest then I may release updates and/or user guides periodically. 

Contents

System Requirements
What MouSeek can do for you
File Details
Getting Started
Using MouSeek
Troubleshooting
Contact Information

System Requirements

Miniumum Recommended *All brands and names are property of their respective owners.

Return to Contents

What MouSeek can do for you

In our lab, we use MouSeek to maintain records for 5 inbred mutant murine colonies. It allows us to keep track of birth dates for all our litters, and it generates reports that tell us when to wean and number progeny. Each mouse has its own record, and this makes it easy to know which litter the mouse came from, its dam and sire, littermates, genotype, phenotype, its exact cage location, other mice residing in that same cage, any progeny it has produced, etc. For the mutant colonies that we are unable to genotype by a more direct approach, MouSeek keeps records of the number of litters and the number of affected offspring for each test-breeding pair to assist with the identification of heterozygous mice.

MouSeek's features:

Other applications where MouSeek would be useful: Basically, MouSeek can be used to keep track of any animal colony, and can be formatted to fit whatever applications you are using with only a little creativity. Even if you have limited to no experience with relational databases, I think you will find FileMaker and MouSeek user-friendly enough to make the introduction easy to swallow, if not enjoyable.

Return to Contents

File Details

A relational database, if designed carefully, can be a powerful information structure. MouSeek applies this power to the management of a murine colony with five main files. (You will find many unfamiliar terms defined in the first couple pages of the Revision History in the downloaded zip file.) The power of storing this information in a relational database becomes evident when you think about collecting data from multiple generations of mice: You can get to the record of a mouseís litter and see all of its littermates if the Litter ID field for the mouse is filled in with a valid Litter ID (one matching a record in Litters). Furthermore, you can get to the record of that litterís breeder if the Breeder ID field (in the Litters file) for the litter has a valid Breeder ID in it. If all of these ID fields are entered correctly then you can jump from a mouse to its siblings, to its parents, to its parents' siblings, etc. In this way it is a breeze to browse (a little a"litter"ation) through many generations of mice for data collecting purposes. (Iíve even begun a pedigree-drawer that will do this graphically for you.) This is probably one of the most useful features of the database, and I have made it foolproof because all ID numbers are assigned automatically as new litter and mouse records are created through births and weanings, respectively. Different nomenclature can be used in the database, but extensive editing of the scripts that automate data entry will be necessary if the user wishes to keep these relational links foolproof.

 Every other file that the database uses (Transactions, Litter Edits, and Mouse Edits) is a helper file. Deaths that occur in a litter before a litter is weaned are stored in Litter Edits for easy access through a portal in Litters. The Transactions file stores information about when a mouse was moved from one cage to another. If we ever need to know the state of a cage on a certain date, then we can search the Transactions file for all records of mice moved into or out of that cage within a range of dates. This has saved our you-know-whats a couple of times already when we lost track of what males were breeding with what females. The Mouse Edits file is one we havenít been using very much, but we could store experiment information in that file if we wanted to. Information can be entered through a portal in Mice, so you should never really have to open this file directly, but of course there is nothing stopping you from doing so.

 That is pretty much it concerning the file structure. Just about everything else in the database is tinkerable, meaning that you can experiment with layouts and scripts and things, but these main files and the relationships that link them together (Cage ID, Mouse ID, Breeder ID, and Litter ID) should only be changed if you know what you're doing.

Return to Contents

Getting Started

To install MouSeek after downloading the zip file, you need to extract all of the zipped-up files to a single directory (name the directory whatever you want) with an unzip program (WinZip is a good one, though you must already have one if you're reading this!). It will be convenient to keep all the zipped-up files in one directory, but only the 8 files with .fp3 extensions are absolutely necessary. I also recommend saving the downloaded zip file in the same directory so that you can experiment with the database without worrying about losing the original program. When you have done this, you must then make sure that you have FileMaker installed on your computer (you can find a trial version here). When FileMaker is installed you can double click the file named "Options.fp3" to launch the program. Have fun!

Learning the basic FMPro commands (creating records, scripts, find requests, layouts, reports, etc.) will help you tailor MouSeek to the needs of your lab. Here are some websites that I found useful when I started learning about databases and FMPro:

Database Design support from FileMaker
More useful links

Return to Contents

Using MouSeek / Troubleshooting

CAUTION!!! Use of this program means you agree that neither I nor Baylor College of Medicine can be held liable for any damage to your data. Though I have done my best to eliminate bugs in the program, I strongly advise using MouSeek as a backup to your current system until you are thoroughly familiar with it. Also, it's a good idea to store the *.fp3 files in a new zip file every time you update them. I say this because I don't want someone to delete all their records on accident, not have a backup of their data, and come to me to say that they weren't warned that this was possible.

 MouSeek is the culmination of about 4 months of coding and another 5 months of testing and revision. As is the case with any software, bugs are sure to appear from time to time. Most of these bugs have been exterminated as they pop up in our use of the program. However, those who use the software differently than we do are sure to encounter the "undesirables" that I didn't catch.

If you experience problems with MouSeek, please send email to Caleb Davis.

Return to Contents

Contact Information

To the extent that I have free time I will try my best to answer any questions that you might have. Thanks for using MouSeek and be sure to let me know what you think about it.

Caleb Davis
Department of Neurology
Baylor College of Medicine
1 Baylor Plaza
Houston, TX 77030
cdavis@bcm.tmc.edu