Biological Recording Week: Day 1 - What is Biological Recording?

Photo; Ryan Clark

During this week, Ryan will be introducing us to the topic of biological recording. Day 1 looks at what biological recording is and how Ryan got involved with it.

Hi everyone,

Today is the first of a series of posts that I plan on doing which explores the world of biological recording. I am still working out the format of these so bear with me.

Firstly, I should introduce myself. My name is Ryan and I grew up on the edge of the Chiltern hills. I didn’t have a childhood full of rambles in the countryside, but I have always appreciated the natural world. I currently work for the Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire as a monitoring and research officer. The Wildlife Trust does an excellent array of structured surveys which inform the management on our reserves, but alongside this my passion lies in making sense of less structured data in the form of biological records!

I got into biological recording 10 years ago when I was 16. I used to visit a site and watch corn buntings singing, barn owls hunting, butterflies flittering in the sun. To me it was a very special site, personally and ecologically. There was very little data on the site though and there is now a housing estate where the site used to be and is ecologically poor. There had been surveys carried out as part of the planning process, but they could never encapsulate all of the wildlife that I treasured so dearly, nobody had recorded the wildlife there. Since then I have developed a particular passion for invertebrates, bryophytes and flowering plants. These groups can be easy to overlook and sometimes have no voice. But through biological recording I hope to give them a voice.

Ryan Clark surveying bees

Myself surveying bees.

At this point you are probably thinking to yourself, what do I mean by biological recording? Well biological recording is the process of making biological records. Biological records are quite simply a record of a species, in a known location, by a known person, on a known date. This may seem complicated but it is quite simple. Tomorrow I will talk you through the parts of a biological record in more detail.

The four main components of a biological record

The four main components of a biological record

Anyone can submit biological records and there are various reasons why you would want to do so. The main one is to influence conservation of species. Biological records are one of the building blocks of evidence based conservation and they tell us which species are found where. I will go into this in more detail in a future post, showing you where some of these records go. But conservation is the main reason why biological recording is important. It is also important to me as a way of documenting the world around me. It gives me great pleasure knowing which species I have seen and where. I have now seen and recorded nearly 3500 species in Britain and submitted over 30000 records. Each of those records represents a meeting between me and a species. These records remind me of those moments in which I quite often was marveling at the wonder of the natural world and the wildlife that we have here in the UK.

Biological recording dates back to atleast the mid 1600s when John Ray started to document wildlife and is thought to be the first person to have produced a flora, detailing where individual plant species could be found. In the Victorian times, documenting wildlife became more popular. Today biological recording is hugely popular is allowing us to understand the natural world better than ever before.

To find out more about biological recording, why not watch this short video from the FSC BioLinks Project.

Tomorrow I will guide you through the process of making a biological record yourself, and talk to you about what makes a good biological record. Thanks for reading!