Missouri Botanical Garden Open Conference Systems, TDWG 2014 ANNUAL CONFERENCE

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A UK view on the breadth and depth of citizens reporting biodiversity observations
Michael Pocock

Building: Elmia Congress Centre, Jönköping
Room: Rydbergsalen
Date: 2014-10-30 11:30 AM – 11:45 AM
Last modified: 2014-10-03


There is a centuries old traditional of recording wildlife by volunteers in the UK. For the past 50 years the Biological Records Centre at the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology has, in partnership with others, supported volunteers and collated many of these records (for taxa apart from birds). The programs have included 85 recording schemes and societies (most of which are volunteer-led) and covered c.44 000 species across all taxonomic groups: from ladybird beetles and plants to freshwater invertebrates and mammals. An estimated 100 000 naturalists (including bird watchers) are involved annually. Records are checked (e.g. using the National Biodiversity Network Record Cleaner) to validate the record’s format and automatically check against verification rules (based on location, time and ease of identification) which have been created for 15 000 species. The finally verified records are added to the National Biodiversity Network, which currently has 100 million records (estimated >98% of which are volunteer-collected) and then feeds data directly to GBIF. The distributions of 10 000 species have been mapped, and the change in distributions over time gives unparalleled information on long-term and large-scale biodiversity change. Analysis of record has also allowed the trends for 2373 species to be estimated, so providing evidence contributing to the UK’s “State of Nature” report. In addition to ‘unstructured’ recording, there are also long-running schemes to systematically record abundance of butterflies along set routes and new schemes in development to monitor changes in plant abundance, pollinators and the pollination service. We had recently undertaken an expert-led assessment to address the priorities in such monitoring schemes and found that there can be conflict between the ideals of end-users of the data and the needs for those supporting the volunteers themselves. Understanding these divergent interests is critical in designing monitoring programs.


In addition to monitoring programs, I will describe two hypothesis-led citizen science projects (Conker Tree Science and the Big Bumblebee Discovery), that I have co-led. These projects have very focused aims, but provided excellent opportunities for wider involvement by school children and members of the public (beyond those already interested in natural history). Once data quality was taken into account, both projects produced scientifically reliable results.