Looking at, and taking an interest in the nature that surrounds us can be a fun and healthy experience. However, knowing what you’re observing isn’t always easy. It can take years of practice and effort to start to understand even a small subset of what we see. Traditionally, we’ve relied very heavily on brilliant individuals and groups such as those found on our specialist recording groups page, or members of the public that go to places like Somerset Wildlife Trust reserves and say what they see around them. Luckily, we now have the technology to help better facilitate recording at a wide range of skill levels. Also, helping our community enjoy taking a closer look at our wildlife.
Our county can also benefit from these new tools. By using them, you can help to fill in some of the gaps in our knowledge and data. We now live in a world of modelling. Data can help predict where we should not only find interesting things but what we should care for. Unfortunately, if people only say what is found at a few places the models are less convincing. This is where we can all help, this is citizen science! The Somerset Wildlife Trust has launched a new initiative called Team Wilder. Over the coming months and years, SERC will be working closely with SWT on Team Wilder. Projects that will help facilitate the recording and citizen science that will be a big part of this initiative.
How You Can Help
Across the world, people are using a website/application called iNaturalist. It’s not corporate or government lead. This is a joint initiative of the California Academy of Sciences and the National Geographic Society. There is now a dedicated UK team. Consisting of representatives from the National Biodiversity Network (NBN), The Biological Records Centre (BRC), and the Marine Biological Association (MBA). They collaborate with iNaturalist for the iNaturalistUK network.
With the climate and ecological emergencies that have been announced across the county, there is renewed interest in finding out and recording the species we have. The team at SERC are now going to be promoting a traffic light system for recording species across Somerset. To ensure that no matter what level of recording skill you have, you’ll be able to take part in contributing.
Don’t know anything about wildlife? Then use an app like Seek. First, set up an account with iNaturalistUK. You can then connect your iNaturalistUK account to the Seek app on your phone. Seek uses your camera to try to help identify the species observed using artificial intelligence (AI) and based on where you are. Using Seek, you can easily record what you spot whilst out on a walk, or as part of a dedicated recording effort and choose to share these observations with iNaturalist. If not already, once you’re mobile device is connected to the internet, it will upload your observations to your iNaturalist account. Then others can begin to confirm and validate what you saw.
Note: Be aware though, like most technologies, Seek is not 100% accurate, it’s just a helpful tool and it’s best to check your records once back at home! iNaturalist has an app for those with more confidence or who are ready for the next level. It should also be noted that recording sightings with iNaturalist also means that these observations can’t be used to inform planning applications.
Onto the next level. You’ve already started honing your skills, relying on learnt species and field guides to help identify your observations. However, it would still be nice to have mobile options for recording your sightings. Using apps provided by iNaturalist and Lutra Consulting (the latter being combined with the soon to be released and dedicated SERC recording form) could both be useful resources and your choice can be one of preference!
Note: Unlike iNaturalist, submitting sightings using the combination of Input and the SERC recording form will allow SERC to use records within planning applications.
You probably don’t need any help! By now you’re a pro, likely a member of one of Somerset’s specialist recording groups or possibly working as an ecological consultant. We can help facilitate specialised recording forms using the Input app.