Britain is very lucky to have a rich history in biological recording. Natural history was a popular pastime in Victorian Britain and our taxonomists were (and still are) responsible for the description and recording of species across the world. As a result of this history, the UK has a well developed network of organisations involved in biological recording. Getting your head around what these organisations do and how they can help you as a biological recorder can be confusing so I’ve tried to clarify the roles of some of the organisations involved. Please note that this list is by no means exhaustive, but I hope it is useful. Where I have explained a type of organisation I have provided examples.
Biological Records Centre (BRC)
This is a publicly funded organisation that works closely with the biological recording community, particularly the recording schemes and societies. This work includes the production of resources (such as recording scheme websites, mobile phone apps, atlases and guidance documents), the undertaking of research to better understand how to improve or interpret biological recording and collation of datasets on behalf of recording schemes and societies.
National Biodiversity Network (NBN)
The NBN is a network consisting of non-governmental organisations and government agencies involved or invested in biological recording. In addition to managing the taxonomic species dictionary for the UK and producing guidance for the biological recording community, the NBN manages the NBN Gateway. The NBN Gateway is a portal through which biological records can be accessed by users. Ideally, this is where all biological records should end up. Records are submitted to the NBN Gateway by organisations that collate records (e.g. Local Environmental Records Centres, National Recording Schemes and Conservation NGOs). In Scotland, the NBN Gateway is currently being replaced by the Atlas of Living Scotland (also managed by the NBN), with hopes to role out the same across the other UK countries.
National Forum for Biological Recording (NFBR)
The NFBR acts as the independent voice of biological recording in the UK. Their Facebook group provides a great forum for sharing news and events. One of the highlights of the biological recording calendar is the annual NFBR conference, where speakers from numerous organisations speak about a topic related to the theme for that year. This year’s theme is National Recording Schemes – celebrating the past, looking to the future.
Local Environmental Records Centres (LERCs)
LERCs are organisations that collate and manage biological records for a defined geographic area (for example the Cumbria Biodiversity Data Centre collates biological records for the county of Cumbria). Biological recorders may send biological records (of any species) to LERCs to be added to their database for the area they cover. LERCs are able to interpret the local importance of biological records (for example the location of European Protected Species records in relation to planning proposals) and may have contacts for species experts for some groups. An Association of Local Environmental Records Centres (ALERC) was formed in 2009 and many LERCs are now members. The ALERC website has an interactive map where you can find the LERC for any area in the UK: www.alerc.org.uk/find-an-lerc-map.html
National Recording Schemes (NRSs)
National recording schemes collate species records for a defined group of organisms and provide guidance on the recording of the species they cover. Records of the species covered by a NRS can be submitted to the scheme by a biological recorder for inclusion in the NRS database. The size of the species group these schemes cover can range from relatively few species (such as the Earthworm Society of Britain) to larger species groups (Such as the Bees, Wasps & Ants Recording Society) or even a a very large and diverse group of species (such as the Botanical Society of Britain & Ireland). These organisations have the expertise to verify records for the species they cover. A list of national recording schemes can be found on the BRC website: www.brc.ac.uk/recording-schemes
Although the focus of conservation NGOs is (obviously) conservation, these organisations may also be involved in biological recording as understanding population trends is pivotal to the conservation work they undertake. Conservation NGOs can be be national (such as the British Trust for Ornithology) or local (such as the many UK Wildlife Trusts) and may specialise on a group of species (for example Buglife) or a habitat (for example The Woodland Trust). Conservation NGOs may work with local recording groups (like the network of Amphibian & Reptile Groups of the UK working with Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust), run national monitoring programmes (such as the Bat Conservation Trust National Bat Monitoring Programme) or encourage citizen science based surveys (like the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch) – all of which produce biological records.
Field Studies Council (FSC)
The FSC is an environmental education charity with centres across the UK. Their work also includes producing invaluable resources for the biological recording community (such as atlases and identification keys) and running natural history courses covering a wide range of subjects and species. They have achieved funding for several biological recording focussed projects over the last 10 years. This includes the current Tomorrow’s Biodiversity project that has devised a range of tools for biological recorders and run regular courses and events.
Local groups are also of huge importance to the biological recording community and these can consist of general natural history groups (such as the Paisley Natural History Society) or groups that cover certain species (such as the Hertfordshire Moth Group). Some organisations that may also be worth a look are the British Entomological & Natural History Society and the Amateur Entomologists Society. Many more organisations are involved in biological recording in the UK and it is not possible to include them all in this article. A database of nature groups can be found on the Natural History Museum website: www.nhm.ac.uk/take-part/nature-groups-near-you
25 January 2016