Biological Recording Week: Day 2 - Making a Biological Record

Biological Recording Week: Day 2 - Making a Biological Record

Leafcutter bee - Ryan Clark

During this week, Ryan will be introducing us to the topic of biological recording. Day 2 looks at what components make a biological record and how to make sure your records are high quality.

Hi everyone,

Welcome to my second blog post looking at the basics on biological recording. Yesterday I introduced what biological recording is and how I got involved with it. Today’s post will look at the components of a biological record and what makes a high-quality record. Higher quality records mean that they can be used for more detailed analysis of the environment.  Later in the week, I will be discussing the many ways in which biological records are used!

Yesterday I mentioned that biological records are a record of a species, in a known location, by a known person, on a known date. We will look at these four parts first.

The Four Basic Parts of a Biological Record

Who, What, Where, When - The four components of a basic biological record

What if I don’t know how to calculate a grid reference?

Grid references can be tricky and cause confusion. They are really important as they allow us to accurately pinpoint where you found a species. In our free recording handbook, I have described how to read and generate grid references.

Access the Wildlife Trust Recording Handbook

What Else Should I Include?

There is lots of other additional information that you can include to make your biological records even better and more useful! For example, you could include:

  • Stage – was it an adult or larvae?
  • Sex – was it male or female?
  • Flower stage – was the plant in flower? In fruit?
  • Abundance
  • Methodology – did you use a moth trap? Quadrat? Sweep net?
  • Evidence – do you have a photo or specimen?

The more information you can include in a biological record, the more uses that it can be used for in the future.

Musk Orchids

Musk orchids. Here it would be useful to say that the plant was flowering, that there was around 30 plants and to attach my photo to the record.

Improving Data Quality

The better quality a record is, the more useful it is to understand how wildlife is faring and influence conservation. So how can I make sure my records are as high quality as possible?

  • Who – Provide the full name of the recorder and determiner. This is the person who identified the species
  • What – The more specific the taxonomic classification, the better. Species records are much better than genus level identifications, although only record to the level that you can confidently identify the species to.
  • Where – Provide the highest accurate geographic resolution you can. A 100m square is much better than a 1km square. Best to provide at least a six figure grid reference.
  • When – As with location information, the finer the resolution the higher the data quality. Providing a specific date is much more desirable than just the year of the record.


That is quite a lot to take in. Thank you for reading. Tomorrow we will look at what these records are used for.