• Ryan Clark

A Decade of Biological Recording

Dear readers,

I started biological recording in 2010 when I was 16 years old. As we enter 2020 this means I have been generating biological records for 10 years now and it is a good time for me to reflect on my journey. Firstly though I must apologise for my complete lack of any posts on this blog in the last year, I must try harder in 2020! I would have never guessed 10 years on I would have generated more than 35000 records and changed my focus from being a vet to being a conservationist.

I would like to reflect on some of the things I have learnt over the last 10 years:

Jobs which pay you to survey species are hard to come by, especially invertebrates.

I have been very lucky in some of the opportunities that I have been given. It has taken hard work and dedication to start of my wildlife conservation journey. The thing that strikes me though is how little work there is in surveying the groups that I am most interested in. I left a role where I was looking at bats and newts because they don’t tick the same boxes for me that plants and invertebrates do. We need to value these groups more and create more roles for people to survey and protect these wonderful creatures. In the end we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand.

The biological recording sector is a real community

I have ‘met’ so many inspirational people over the last 10 years. I say ‘met’ because the majority of the people who have influenced me I didn’t meet in person initially. Social media has played a huge part in helping me to learn about wildlife and I cannot thank the people of social media enough for their help. Facebook and Twitter are essential conservation tools.

Some competitiveness is healthy, too much is not

This was a trap I fell into by Pan Species Listing, this is the process of keeping track of how many species you have seen. That is all well and good and is something I enjoy a lot as it helps me to learn new species groups, meet other naturalists and has showed me just how many species there are around us. But it all became too much for me when I started comparing myself with others who have larger lists etc and feeling like they were ‘a better naturalist’ (what even is a better naturalist anyway!). I was missing the point of it all which to me has always been the dots on the map, evidence based conservation.

Passion is important

On the bad days, passion for wildlife is what keeps me going.  Winter is a horrible time for me, the long dark days… ick! But knowing that there is still wildlife out there and that spring will come again, is what keeps me going. I have suffered a lot of set backs in my attempts to be a wildlife conservationist and passion is what keeps me going. So this is just a reminder to you (and myself) not to undervalue the passion that we share.

Recording Creates Memories

I find now that fairly often I remember places by the species I saw there, as well as the place itself. Having my own database of records has allowed me to remember happy memories more than I may otherwise do. The personal element to recording is something that I think I overlooked for a while. Recently Martin Harvey recently said something along the lines of “Each record represents a meeting between humans and wild species” , this to me sums it up. Each of the dots on the map below is exactly that to me, full of memories and joy.

All records

My records in my database

A Reflection on 2019

2019 seemed to shoot by for me, I am still not sure where the time went. It was the final year of the ‘WILDside Project’ which was my day-job for over two and a half years. It was a real pleasure to work with biological recorders in Northamptonshire during that time. I am finalising the evaluation report currently so will post a link to that when it is ready. Despite time shooting by, I did manage to get out and do some recording, my records are shown on the map below.

2019 Records

My quest to learn to identify and record more species continues. This year I recorded close to 500 species that I hadn’t seen before, I also tidied up my list which meant in previous years my totals may have been slightly off. Anyhow, my total is now 3419 species recorded in Britain, will I reach 4000 in 2020? I very much doubt it, but I will try!


Happy recording!

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