As I mentioned previously, biological recording is a bit of a minefield and there are plenty of organisations, groups, societies and schemes out there vying for your valuable wildlife records.
Generally, biological recording is an interconnected affair and records submitted through a chosen platform usually (but not always) find their way to where they’re needed. Still, trying to unravel the spider’s web that is environmental data-sharing in the UK is rather complex and I will not try to explain it here. I doubt that I could!
Where you send your records is ultimately down to you but some things you may wish to consider are:
- Where will my records have the greatest impact?
- Will they be added to national and local datasets?
- Do they go where I want them to?
- How easy/time efficient is it to send in sightings?
- Will I get feedback on my records?
iRecord is a fantastic platform for sharing records of species you have already identified. Recorders can add sightings of taxa quickly and easily, set up ‘Activities’ associated with particular species groups or places and readily explore what other naturalists have been spotting in their local area.
The single best thing about iRecord (in my humble opinion) is its interconnectedness. Sightings added to iRecord are shared with recording schemes, county recorders and expert verifiers, enabling sightings to be ‘confirmed’ before finding their way into wider datasets. The platform is also firmly linked with the NBN Atlas, enabling records to be shared wider with anyone who needs them and downloaded by Local Environmental Record Centres. Feedback on iRecord is not always instantaneous, but the wait is worthwhile knowing your sightings are going to the right place.
Truthfully, iRecord takes a little time to get your head around but is well worth it.
Opinion: iRecord is the platform to use if you seek comfort in the knowledge that someone, somewhere will use your wildlife records for something positive.
A global wildlife recording platform, iNaturalist is incredibly easy to use. Whether you choose to use the website or app, you need only upload an image and hit send. Somewhat different to iRecord, recorders don’t even need to know what they’ve spotted and unidentified records are quickly confirmed by other users.
The community feel of iNaturalist is a great bonus of the platform and the very reason it is often used for bioblitzes such as the City Nature Challenge. You’ll need multiple confirmations from other users for your wildlife records to be marked as ‘Research Grade’ before they can be picked up by recording schemes – something which is likely to remove the majority of errors. A potential drawback here is that while there are many knowledgeable people using iNaturalist, anyone can ‘verify’ a record. You do not receive the same access to experts as provided by iRecord.
Recently, records from iNaturalist began to be automatically imported into iRecord, meaning they can be verified just like any other; though some schemes opt to ignore these and issues such as the use of nicknames and incorrect location names can throw a spanner in the works.
iNaturalist has, however, come a long way in a relatively short space of time!
Opinion: use iNaturalist if you’re seeking help with identification, are just starting out in biological recording or enjoy a more interactive experience.
Additional options for your wildlife records
Local Environmental Records Centres (LERCs)
Local Environmental Records Centres are not-for-profit organisations that collect, collate and distribute environmental data for a set geographic area. A good example is my local Environmental Records Information Centre here in the North East.
As well as collating data from various groups, clubs and schemes, LERCs often have their own portals to allow record sharing by local naturalists, often using the same software as iRecord. Sightings shared with LERCs will eventually make their way down the same channels as those shared to iRecord and may also be shared with NBN if centre staff and volunteers can spare the time.
It is worth mentioning that LERCs also have the ability to collect records shared to iRecord and iNaturalist. This may take a little time and ultimately, depends on the resources of the centre in question.
Opinion: submitting to your local LERC is a good way to ensure your records are used where they’re needed locally. However, under ideal circumstances, active LERCs should receive records shared with other platforms anyway.
Targeted Recording Apps
If you are only interested in recording a select few species groups, you might consider some of the targeted surveys out there. Two good examples that spring to mind are iRecord Butterflies and iRecord Ladybirds, both of which do a great job capturing important data on these groups through a series of handy apps. There are others out there too!
Vice-County Recorders (VCRs)
Vice-County Recorders are local naturalists appointed to gather, verify and curate wildlife sightings, and coordinate surveys. From plants to moths and mammals, for most of the well-studied species groups, the chances are there is a vice-county recorder in your area. Most welcome sightings via email, and others may request records to be collated in spreadsheets.
Many VCRs are plugged into some of the same platforms mentioned previously and actively verify and collect records from iRecord, in particular. That said, there remain some out there who are ‘selective’ about the platforms they choose to support, both reasonably and unreasonably in some cases. If you plan on doing serious recording locally, it is probably best to check the preference of your VCR to avoid your sightings floating about in permanent limbo.
Opinion: sending sightings direct to a VCR is a viable alternative for anyone wishing to avoid online recording portals but please do check their preference before filling their inbox.
From shieldbugs and snails to bees, beetles and fungi, thanks to a long history of wildlife recording in the UK, there are recording schemes out there for just about everything. NBN have a great search function to help you find the scheme that’s right for you.
Like the aforementioned VCRs, many of these schemes are wired into iRecord and even iNaturalist, while others choose to run their own recording portals or capture data in other ways. The UK Hoverfly Scheme‘s Facebook group is a good example of this.
For the purposes of this blog, I’m also lumping bird clubs and natural history societies that collect records in this category too. Many of these may share your sightings more widely but it helps to be cautious here as some may not distribute them any further than their own archive.
And there we have it! Ultimately, where you send your wildlife records boils down to what you hope to achieve. If you’re keen to support conservation, research and the production of resources, choose a route that leads to NBN. Here, your data can be downloaded and accessed at will by those who need it. More specifically, if you want expert feedback, opt for iRecord, or if you prefer the social site of wildlife recording, consider iNaturalist. The list goes on…
While the entire process of wildlife recording can be confusing, the most important thing is that you’re making the effort to document your finds in the first place. You can tackle the rest later.