NatureSpot mentoring scheme - how it works

Regular contributors to NatureSpot can be invited to use our Identification Mentoring Scheme. This gives you access to a team of specialist experts who have offered to help you with the identification of your wildlife records. Identifying a species correctly can be challenging, particularly for unfamiliar groups, but our mentors are local experts who have volunteered to help NatureSpot recorders develop their identification skills.

How it works

Once you have accepted the email invitation, you become a member of the NatureSpot mentoring group. This allows you to submit any wildlife record, accompanied by a photo, to the experts simply by selecting the option at the top of the Submit Records form.

The rest of the form you fill in normally - but only include records you want identification help with. Obviously you will need to attach a photo with each record otherwise the expert will have nothing to look at. You must select a species name with you record, even though we know you are not sure about it. Just enter the species name you think it might be, or the nearest you can find. (The species name entered helps to direct your submission to the most relevant mentor).

Your submission will automatically be sent to the mentor for that group. He/she will then send an email comment to you about your species. If the species can be identified, the mentor will verify the record, perhaps after changing the name to the correct species if needed. If it can't be identified you will be informed via the comment and the record will then be rejected.

The comments will be emailed to you but should you later choose to turn off the email notifications you can still view your comments on the Mentoring Home page. Email notication settings can be amended on your My Profile page.

Please be aware that the mentors are voluntarily offering their support and that it may not be possible for them to give you a prompt reply.

Remember that it is frequently not possible to identify a species from a photograph alone, many require a specimen to be examined with a microscope using a specialist key. The Photo ID ratings on the NatureSpot species galleries indicate how easy it is to identify a species from a photograph. Species rated ‘RED’ normally require examination of a specimen which normally means killing it. The mentor may offer to examine the specimen if you send to him/her and will advise you how to do this if necessary. However it is up to you whether you want to do this, some recorders are happy to accept that there are limits to the species they will be able to identify.

The ID Resources section on NatureSpot includes more general sources of identification, including suggested websites and publications.

It would help those of us who verify the records submitted to NatureSpot if you use this mentoring scheme when you are not certain yourself to get a firm identification, rather than guess and upload your record as ‘likely’ or ‘maybe’. Such uncertain records are of limited value and add significantly to the work load.