Species Recording

I am a huge advocate for citizen science and the need to record species, even if they are seen to be "common". How can we detect declines in common species unless we have the data to back this up? Let me introduce you to the world of species recording/monitoring, and how you can help!

Why is species recording important?

The recording the presence of species such as amphibians and reptiles is important for several reasons including biodiversity monitoring, conservation, and research.

Collectively, amphibians and reptiles contribute to overall biodiversity. It may not always seems like it, but they play a pivotal role in ecosystems both here in Europe and around the world. By monitoring their presence, this helps scientists and conservationists to understand the health and diversity of amphibian populations, and the ecosystems where they live. Changes in their populations may be indicative of broader ecological changes such as habitat fragmentation, climate change or pollution. Due to this, amphibians and reptiles are often considered biological indicator species.

Unfortunately, many amphibians and reptiles are threatened or endangered due to habitat destruction, pollution, and other human activities. Monitoring their populations is crucial for implementing effective conservation strategies. This can therefore help to identify habitats that need protection or restoration, or inform other management interventions. Finally, studying amphibians and reptiles contributes to scientific knowledge about their biology, behaviour, and ecology. This information is valuable for assisting in our understanding the function within ecosystems, which can also inform which management strategies and interventions are most likely to succeed, if and when they are needed.

How can I get involved with species recording?

Getting involved in species monitoring and recording can be a rewarding way to contribute to conservation efforts and scientific knowledge, while also spending some time outdoors. I would encourage you to carry a pencil and paper at all times, so that you can record what you find, noting the location and date/time of your observation. I would also encourage you to take photographs, as these can be helpful when it comes to identifying the species later, or during the record verification process. Where possible, record all of the species that you can as every dot on the map helps!

Depending on which species you intend to record, you can look for local organisations or conservation groups that focus on a particular group of species, such as the Amphibian and Reptile Groups UK. This is just one example, but there are many groups and organisations that you may be able to join, depending on your interests. These local groups often organise events, surveys, and training sessions to help new members. It may also help you to learn about the species that are present in your area, especially those that may be of conservation concern. Depending on your area of interest, it may also be beneficial to understand their habitats, behaviours, and ecology to assist with the differentiation of morphologically similar species.

Remember that patience, dedication, and a willingness to learn are essential when getting involved in species monitoring and recording. Whether you contribute as a citizen scientist or collaborate with established organisations, your efforts can make a meaningful impact on the understanding and conservation of local biodiversity.

Which recording portal/scheme should I use?

There are a large number of ways that you can contribute records of various different species you have observed out in nature. The number of these vary depending on what group of animals, plants or fungi are most commonly recorded. Some recording schemes are even set up to help target a lack of records of a particular species, such as under-recorded insect species. So, don't worry about getting confused about the appropriate place to record your observations, and I too am sometimes left scratching my head.

Depending on where you saw a particular species, may dictate where you report it. For example, if you made your observation an a nature reserve, you could always report this back to the staff at the visitor centre (if one is present). If not, then using an appropriate app such as iRecord or iNaturalist may be the next best option. There are a number of apps available for recording species, with some geared towards specific recording schemes, and others being more general. When it comes to amphibians and reptiles in Great Britain however, I'd recommend Record Pool for casual observations, such as those made while in your garden or out walking the dog. If you have a much larger dataset (especially if it comprises of other species than just amphibians and reptiles), then it may be easier to submit this directly to your Local Environmental Records Centre. If you're not based in the United Kingdom, then I would recommend HerpMapper, a global citizen science-based herpetological recording scheme. There may of course be other alternatives within your home country that I am unaware of, so if the information provided above doesn't apply to you, then perhaps a quick internet search is need.

How I am helping with species recording

As well as promoting the need for everyone to get out there and record species, as well as the amazing impact that can have, I am also involved with verifying records that are submitted from people like yourself. Ensuring that all records that are submitted to various schemes or projects is vitally important, so that all of the information is correct and comparable. This generally takes the form of double-checking species identification or the location of an observation, if they seem out of place.

Currently I verify all of the amphibian and reptile records submitted to Record Pool for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Norfolk. I also verify all of the amphibian and reptile records submitted from Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire to iRecord. In these instances, all of the verified records then make their way to the local environmental records centre (e.g. CPERC) before being made available on the NBN Atlas, whereby anyone can access them.

It's important that if you've seen a species that it's recorded as you never know when that information is going to be useful to a researcher, conservationist or ecologist. This is especially true for species that may be seen as common or mundane. You would be surprised by the lack of records of these species, as everyone assumes that someone else has already done so.

Best of luck with all of your species recording!