A developing paradigm
- Regular training events that Stuart and I run across the length and breadth of the UK (from Lerwick and Kirkwall to Exeter, Studland and West Sussex). We run between 5 and 8 such courses per year, but probably only generate about 1 new recorder like our old guard from about every 50 trainees; so perhaps one per year.
- Interaction with recorders on the web. Facebook has proven to be exceptionally effective in this respect. FB not only helps with ID skills but it helps to develop the wider recording skills and an understanding of what data are needed. That said, we must also accept that a very high number of contributors who are (were) first and foremost photographers who wanted IDs for their shots. Importantly, the spread of involvement has widened considerably and this has made a huge difference to the recording scheme.
- A very substantial number of FB members started either as photographers who wish to know what their subject matter is, or who enjoy sharing their experiences with others who are interested from the perspective of getting a good shot. As such contributing to iRecord or another medium is not their highest priority - we would lose a great deal of data if I did not extract from this site.
- There are considerable advantages to compiling a dataset that has been checked by a small group of the more reliable specialists. This improves confidence that the data are robust, providing one does not simply discard partially identified records to provide perspective; hence I extract all records.
- I extract a great deal of additional data that often gets overlooked by recorders: the gender of the animal, morphs, abundance, behaviour and flower visits (not the plant the animal was sitting on). It is a comprehensive dataset.
- I think the page would be a far less effective resource without the feedback that I manage to post on trends in species abundance or record numbers. If we are to generate a new cohort of recorders (and hopefully replacements for the existing team) then we must educate and mentor people.
- The impact of FB can be seen from the attached graph (it will be bigger still in 2016 as we are dealing with about 50% more records than 2015.
|Figure 1. Numbers of records held within the HRS database, separated according to origin: NBN data are held separate to the main HRS datase|
But, what about iRecord?
- There are quite a few contributors who post a set of photos that are all of different animals that they lump under the same species name - that has to be disentangled.
- Records often lack detail - when I extract data from this page I also log the gender, flower visits, behaviour etc. Posts on FB often lack this or say 'on rose' when they mean 'sitting on the leaves of a rose bush' and not 'visiting the flower of a rose' - there is a huge difference in the value of such data and as there is interest in pollinators my approach is providing a far more robust dataset.
- A fair few records are misidentified - there is one regular contributor who rarely achieves 50% correct and seems not to have learned at all in the past 2 years.
- Where records are not accompanied by photos one gets no real feel for the actual skill of the recorder. This is illustrated by people whose data cover Syrphus - lots of records without photos but the odd one with a photo that clearly cannot be taken to species (e.g. males of poor resolution). At that point one must be wary of the overall quality of the data from that person. These have to be dealt with - iRecord is not a particularly good interactive medium and FB is far better in this respect.