Apps and technology

Current Activity

The rapid technological advances seen in the past decades have changed the way many of us live our lives. BRC has developed a number of smart phone apps, websites and analytical tools that harness technologies to support biological recording. The BRC provides website hosting and development support for many recording schemes and projects

iRecord is a website (and mobile app) for sharing wildlife observations (biological records), including associated photos – you can register quickly and for free, and then add your own records for others to see, and you can see what has been recorded by others. A growing team of expert naturalists give their time to verify (i.e. ensure the accuracy) of these records.

iRecord links to a growing set of ‘on-the-go’ biological recording apps, such as those for ladybirds and butterflies which allow users to submit records containing GPS location, photographic evidence and a range of useful supplementary information.

Taxonomic coverage of iRecord

Plot illustrating taxonomic coverage of iRecord

Figure: Tom August, CEH.

The number of people submitting wildlife sightings online is increasing dramatically. The taxonomic breadth of data collected through iRecord on behalf of recording schemes is unrivalled. The quantity and quality of data offers great opportunities for research and conservation but also presents many technological challenges.

 

Key Outputs

The National Biodiversity Network Gateway is a world-leading system for sharing ~100 million observations, and the BRC contributes to many distribution datasets shared via the NBN Atlas.

 

Mobile Apps

BRC supports recording using mobile apps. They will make it easier for more people to join in. By using GPS, camera, clock, and mobile network, we expect to see more records that are more accurate.

We have built apps for recording butterflies and ladybirds. We have also helped other organisations such as the Environment Agency and the Mammal Society.

The sightings go to iRecord, allowing recorders to see all their observations in one place.

See the full list of apps.

The NBN Gateway’s Interactive map

Screen shot of NBN interactive map

Figure: NBN.

The NBN gateway is not only the UK’s central repository of biological occurrence data but is also a platform for sharing these data with policy makers, researcher, students and other volunteer recorders. Here we show the distribution of the Adonis Blue, Polyommatus bellargus, butterfly (supplied by Butterfly Conservation; blue 2km squares) overlaid on areas of chalk grassland (supplied by Natural England; areas in black).

Future Challenges

Technology has increased and diversified the ways that biological records are submitted, analysed and shared. BRC is using its wealth of experience of biological recording and supporting technologies to develop and share tools, enabling schemes to meet the challenge of diverse data types from numerous providers. BRC has helped create tools such as the Indicia software, for developers of online recording systems, and rNBN for researchers, to help address these challenges.

References

Terry Christopher D., Roy Helen E., August Tom A. (2020) Thinking like a naturalist: Enhancing computer vision of citizen science images by harnessing contextual data. John Wiley & Sons, Ltd,
Boyd Robin J., Carvell Claire, Powney Gary D., Pescott Oliver L (2021) occAssess: An R package for assessing potential biases in species occurrence data. ,
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RN254 Schmeller Dirk S, Mihoub Jean-Baptiste, Bowser Anne, Arvanitidis Christos, Costello Mark J, Fernández Miguel, Geller Gary N, Hobern Donald, Kissling Daniel, Regan Eugenie (2017) An operational definition of essential biodiversity variables. ,
RN276 Heaver David, Webb Jon, Roy D. B., Dean Hannah, Harvey M., Macadam Craig, Curson Jon (2017) Pantheon: a new resource for invertebrate survey standards and analysis. ,
RN381 Suggitt Andrew J., Wilson Robert J., Isaac Nick J. B., Beale Colin M., Auffret Alistair G., August T.A., Bennie Jonathan J., Crick Humphrey Q. P., Duffield Simon, Fox Richard, Hopkins John J., Macgregor Nicholas A., Morecroft Mike D., Walker Kevin J., Maclean Ilya M. D. (2018) Extinction risk from climate change is reduced by microclimatic buffering. ,
RN385 Outhwaite Charlotte L., Chandler Richard E., Powney Gary D., Collen Ben, Gregory Richard D., Isaac Nick J. B. (2018) Prior specification in Bayesian occupancy modelling improves analysis of species occurrence data. ,