03/04/2013
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Biological recording training offered

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To ensure a healthy natural environment we need to understand the breadth and depth of all the species we have, and not just the easily recognised groups such as birds. Volunteers play a huge part in monitoring our wildlife but, despite many initiatives aimed at encouraging new recorders, the pool of active volunteers with specialist skills is thought to be decreasing. One of the limitations to biodiversity recording by volunteers is the lack of expertise available to represent the more specialist groups of species, such as micro-moths or mosses. The increasing demand for biodiversity data, especially at local levels, means we need to do far more than just maintaining and updating the data captured previously; we need to increase the numbers, geographical coverage and specialist knowledge of our biological recorders.

With support from Defra's Fund for Biodiversity in the Voluntary Sector, FSC and Natural England have created 'Biodiversity Fellows', a new programme to train and retain wildlife recorders as volunteer experts. The programme addresses the lack of existing courses for 'difficult to identify' species and the need for post-course support to ensure trained volunteers go on to become active recorders. Biodiversity Fellows offers a fresh approach: as well as a series of traditional face-to-face training courses, it offers a package of supporting resources and mentoring to aid and encourage the transition from enthusiastic volunteer right through to active, useful recorder.

Caloptilia stigmatella
Caloptilia stigmatella, Northolt, Greater London (Photo: David Howdon)

Andrew Thompson at Natural England said "The records contributed by volunteers help inform our advice to Government about the natural world — it has been estimated that over 70% of all species records were made by volunteers — so this programme is an important tool to continue that flow of data."

Pete Boardman at FSC said "Just over 80% of course places are now taken, which demonstrates the need for this kind of training, but we'd really like to see the courses completely full so please do contact us whether you'd like to join the recording community or hone your existing skills."

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Common Field Grasshopper
Common Field Grasshopper, Magdalen Hill Down, Hampshire (Photo: Doug Kelson)

FSC is working in partnership with a large number of National Recording Schemes and Societies to offer a series of funded one-day courses (free to registered bio.fells) and a number of bursaries for residential courses supported by:

  • expert tuition from regional, national and international experts
  • active mentoring and post-course support by tutors
  • trialling the use of webinars for several groups
  • training in online recording
  • access to online resources

These will be held at FSC centres in England, plus a range of other sites, and will include field training and lab sessions. If you'd like to become a Biodiversity Fellow, contact the project officer or visit the FSC website.

Written by: Natural England