Current Activity

The world has been undergoing an increasingly rapid technological revolution for the past 50 years. In 2014, almost all 16 to 24 year olds use the internet and 59% of the UK’s population have a smart phone - a miniature pocket computer accessing the internet. These advances, among many others, have changed the way many of us live our lives. BRC is developing a number of smart phone apps, websites and analytical tools that harness technologies to support biological recording.

Key Outputs

The National Biodiversity Network Gateway is a world-leading system for sharing ~100 million observations.  The iRecord website combines digital photography, the networking ability of the internet and statistical analyses to provide a robust means of collecting biological records for the 21st Century. 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.

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).

Taxonomic coverage of iRecord

Plot illustrating taxonomic coverage of iRecord

Figure: Tom August, UKCEH.

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.

Smartphone applications for biological recording

Screen shot of iRecord Butterfly mobile app

Photos: UKCEH.

Smartphone apps allow volunteers to quickly access information and our technology ‘on-the-go’. Using GPS and camera technology embedded in smart phones, these apps allow volunteers to collect verifiable records in the field which help to further our understanding of the world around us.

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.


Heaver, D., Webb, J., Roy, D.B., Dean, H., Harvey, M., Macadam, C. & Curson, J. (2017) Pantheon: a new resource for invertebrate survey standards and analysis. In Practice: Bulletin of the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management, 98, 25-29.