Online recording – frequently asked questions

SWSEIC online recording

Traditionally, most wildlife recorders would gather records in notebooks in the field. Indeed most probably still do. These would be transcribed onto recording forms, or into spreadsheets, and passed to an organisation such as a Local Environmental Records Centre or a National Recording Scheme.  They would in turn enter any paper records onto a computer and upload them to their database. Whilst many recorders still use these methods to submit their data, technology now allows recorders to submit their records online through a form on a website, or even in the field using an app on a smartphone. Records entered this way can be processed, checked and shared easily and efficiently, and such technology opens up wildlife recording to an increasing number of people. Examples include the British Trust for Ornithology’s BirdTrack or the Biological Records Centre’s iRecord.

SWSEIC are now pleased to have a functional online recording form that allows users to submit records easily, using look-up lists and built-in online mapping to make a allocating grid references much simpler.

The SWSEIC online recording tools are built using a toolkit called Indicia. This is the same system that the iRecord website uses. The data we gather is stored online in a data warehouse managed by the Biological Records Centre and is accessible by SWSEIC staff.

The form we had previously on our old website simply used to email the data to us. We then had to enter the data manually onto our database. By adopting an Indicia based system (see above) our records are now collated in a centralised database which can be checked and shared much more easily.

SWSEIC collates and shares both current and historical information about the region’s wildlife. If you have old records that you would like to share, these can be entered through our online recording form (but see ‘What if I don’t know the precise date for a record?‘ below) or can be sent through more traditional mechanisms (e.g. spreadsheet). If you have lots of information please fell free to contact us for advice on how we can help to mobilise your data.

Sometimes we don’t know the precise date for a particular sighting, particularly if it was from a few months or even years ago. Our online recording form at present only accepts precise dates, so if you have  records with imprecise dates (e.g. date ranges such as 02-05/06/2017 or month-year or just year only) then we recommend you submit your records using one of alternative mechanisms

You can use the map to find a grid reference for your records. All records submitted on our form must have a location name and grid reference.

Zoom into the map using the + and – tools on the left-hand side. Alternatively you can enter a place name nearby in the search box. This will return a list of one or more matching place names, and you can click on the  relevant one to zoom the map straight to that area.

The background map defaults to an Open Streetmap background but you can switch to see a satellite image using the + in the top right corner. This can help to pinpoint the location of your record. Unfortunately Ordnance Survey background maps are not available on our Indicia online system at present.

If you hover over the map a square corresponding to a grid reference will appear. The more you zoom in, the smaller the square and more precise the grid reference for your record will be.  We would encourage recorders to give at least a six-figure grid reference if at all possible.

The online recording form is designed so that users can lock certain fields so that entering successive records is made simple. So if you are entering a number of records from the same place, use the padlock icons to lock the recorder, location and date fields and these will already be filled in when you enter the next record.

All records submitted through the SWSEIC online recording forms will be curated by SWSEIC. The data are stored in an online data warehouse, will be made available for verification using the iRecord online verification tools (see ‘Are the records I enter checked?‘ below). The records will also be made viewable and searchable through the iRecord website.

Records will be downloaded to SWSEIC’s Recorder 6 database and will be made available via the NBN Atlas under a Creative Commons attribution non-commercial license.

At present we do not have that facility available on our website. However, if you are a keen recorder you can register with iRecord (see below) and submit your records through the iRecord website. Your records will still be available to SWSEIC (automatically, no need to send them twice) and you will be able to download all of the records you submit.

We will always be happy to provide you with a copy of any records you have submitted to SWSEIC on request.

All records entered through the SWSEIC website are shared with the iRecord verification system. Registered local or national experts help to check records, for example to ensure that species are identified correctly or that records haven’t been given incorrect grid references (e.g. squirrels in the sea!). In some cases verifiers may contact recorders to ask for clarification of any queries they may have about the record.

This process adds an element of ‘quality assurance’ to the records, and is vital to ensure that the information, which may subsequently be used for many different purposes, is as accurate as possible.

Other online recording tools

iRecord is a website for sharing wildlife observations, including associated photos, run by the Biological Records Centre. You can register for free; once registered, you can add your own biological records for others to see, and you can see what has been recorded by others. Your data is kept secure and regularly backed up. Automatic checks will be applied to your observations to help spot potential errors, and experts can review your sightings. All wildlife sightings for non-sensitive species are shared with other users and will be made available to National Recording Schemes, Local Environmental Record Centres and Vice County Recorders (VCRs).

The answer is ‘it depends’. The flow of data between the many different parties who have an interest in biological recording is variable. There are many examples of excellent data sharing relationships between organisations, but sometimes other factors (e.g capacity, funding) makes the situation less than perfect. Organisations like Biological Recording in Scotland (BRISC), the National Forum for Biological Recording (NFBR) and the National Biodiversity Network (NBN) have recognised these issues for over 40 years, and progress continues to be made in resolving blockages.

SWSEIC supports the principle that recorders should be able to submit their records once and that the data should flow to wherever it is needed so it can be used many times. Organisations like LERCs can help to build data flows with local recorders and recording groups and encourage the wider sharing of information for use in research, conservation and decision-making.

Technology has an important role to play in improving data flows, but it can also create it’s own problems. The proliferation of online tools and apps for capturing wildlife records means there are more choices than ever for recorders in how they submit their records. Here are some examples of online tools and phone apps – records submitted to these will subsequently be accessible to SWSEIC:

  • iRecord
  • iRecord app and other iRecord species apps (e.g. ladybirds, grasshoppers, butterflies)
  • BirdTrack
  • Plant Tracker/Mammal Tracker/SealifeTracker phone apps
  • Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels online recording form
  • National Recording Scheme online recording tools (e.g. British Dragonfly Society and Bees, Wasp and Ants Recording Scheme)

The list is far from exhaustive, so if you are a regular online recorder and are unsure if the data you send in will reach SWSEIC for local use, please contact us and we will let you know.

iSpot is primarily a community forum for assisting wildlife watchers with identification. Users can post photos and seek help with identification from other community members, which includes many experts. It’s a great way to learn from others about identification of different species. However users should not assume that the information submitted via iSpot will be shared or made available to other organisations such as national recording schemes and societies or records centres like SWSEIC.

iRecord is a platform for entering and sharing your wildlife observations (see above). The site is about capturing and sharing you nature observations and passing them on to others. It allows you to enter your wildlife sightings online and to see records submitted by other users . Records that are entered through iRecord will be available to SWSEIC and will be shared via the NBN Atlas.

All records submitted through iRecord are made available to Local Environmental Records Centres such as SWSEIC. Most LERCs access these and make the records available through their local biodiversity reporting systems. SWSEIC downloads records submitted through iRecord and from other affiliated systems which share their data via iRecord, and makes these data available for local decision making. There is no need to re-send your records directly to SWSEIC.

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