Networks: data & experienced experts?

Treeton was the venue for the annual South Yorkshire Natural History Day, organised and delivered by the Sorby Natural History Society.  It was, as usual, well attended with perhaps somewhere between seventy and eighty people.  A mixed or should one say ‘diverse’ bunch, and I could for a change be considered to have been one of the ‘middle aged’ attendees.  It was good to see and hear ‘youngsters’ taking up projects with enthusiasm.  It was particularly refreshing to hear one such speaker express appreciation about the help and support received from experienced experts in the Sorby NHS.  Would that more grant funded projects would adopt a similar philosophy.  When the hardened amongst us, who remember black and white televisions and a time when there were two hundred and forty pennies in a pound, drift back to those days of wanderings, of discoveries and of the difficulties involved in putting a name to the more unusual finds without the benefit of t’internet or digital images and emails one might be forgiven for wondering how it was the necessary field skills were acquired?

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Break time at South Yorkshire Natural History day, organised and facilitated by Sorby NHS in Treeton.

But, when youngsters seek out help then it is generally offered.  Sadly there are a few who seem to consider that it is a right, after all they paid their university fees ….

The Forum have been lucky, we have links with a number of academic institutions and are keen to encourage students to make links and are happy to help where we can.  Last year three such individuals benefited from our help and support.  This coming year another two have linked up with us and one is ongoing from 2015.

All these links, all this networking ought to build a cohesive network able to defend habitats and sites under threat?  All the recording going on should deliver robust evidence to safeguard sites from inappropriate development?

We pose the question, posed by many others as well, where does an aspiring amateur naturalist pass on their observations and records?  Melissa Harrison asked BBC Wildlife magazine readers in the January edition a similar question, she also raised the issue of  charities and organisations competing for data, our money etc.

Back to the destination of data issue …. which presupposes (a) they want to and that (b) they are accurate identifications.  Assuming that the second part is accommodated through making contact with local, regional or national experts in the case of difficult species and validation or determination achieved then what should the new amateur naturalist do next?  Chances are if they live in a town then there may well be a local group or natural history society.  There might be a regional or national one, but do you record by groups or by geographical area?  There are local records centres (LRCs) keen to take your data, it is after all worth money because they are obliged if run by the Local Authority to provide data searches to commercial enquirers.  Conversely there appears to be little data provided to LRCs by commercial consultants who like to promote themselves as ‘professionals’.  There are national recording schemes for many groups (dragonflies, moths, water beetles, spiders and many others).  There are schemes designed to feed into such as the National Biodiversity Network (NBN) which used cautiously can be a useful guide, there are citizen science schemes but all these rely on the amateur naturalists and perhaps a few ‘professionals’ to confirm identification or to actually determine the finds (often submitted as photographs).  There are many keen to act as ‘managers’ but too few keen to support that indefatigable army of amateur naturalists who actually deliver the raw data for the ‘professional’ managers to interpret.  At one time of day the government through various defra agencies collected data on a range of species and habitats.

The February issue of British Wildlife magazine has a though provoking paper “The increasing importance of monitoring wildlife responses to habitat management” (Fuller et. al.). 

A case could certainly be presented for some of that here in the Humberhead Levels?  Doncaster East IDB, are through their management service provision (JBA Consulting) implementing a £2.9m Water Level Management Plan on Thorne Moors.  Mid term through that, Natural England secured £2.3m to deliver a EU LIFE+ Project involving management works, engineering, community engagement and …. science and monitoring, one of the salaried posts was a monitoring officer, so there’s hope that substantive science will be delivered and monitoring put in place post projects to assess impact and changes on key habitats and species?

 

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