What exactly is NatureSpot for? To promote understanding of the wildlife and wild places of Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland and help to increase public awareness of and interest in local biodiversity. Read more...
- To help the public to identify local wildlife and to learn about the natural environment.
- To create, with public participation, an online showcase of the wildlife and wild places of Leicestershire and Rutland.
- To encourage and facilitate wildlife recording.
But what does that mean in practice?
We are aware from our usage statistics that the vast majority of the millions of people who access NatureSpot each year are interesting in identifying something they have seen in their garden, on a walk, or on their bedroom ceiling. To do this, they access our species galleries, consisting of images submitted by our users who have submitted records of their finds over the years. The number of people who submit records is far smaller than the total number of site users. This is understandable, as submitting a record is a commitment, and identifying some species can take years of experience and even expensive equipment (although it's not so difficult to identify a Robin in your garden). All records which are submitted are reviewed by experts, and if accepted, go on to form part of the permanent scientific record, informing future generations on the impact of climate change, changes in land use and agricultural practices, and many other uses. For this reason, if we accept a record, we have to be as sure as we can be that it is correctly identified. But we all make mistakes, even the experts. We use the evidence submitted as part of the record (most importantly, photos of sufficient quality to support the identification) to make our decisions. Some of the records submitted are wrong, or simply cannot be verified based on the evidence which accompanies them. And that means that we have to reject some of the records submitted - although surprisingly few, only a few percent of the many thousands submitted each year.
We recently had a discussion about spider records, and we agreed that we would apply the evidence recommended in the most recent reference book (Bee, L., Oxford, G., & Smith, H. (2020). Britain's Spiders: A Field Guide. Second Edition. Princeton University Press). Each species description explains what evidence is required to allow us to accept a record of that species. This brings NatureSpot in line with the national recording scheme for spiders. But it also means that some people will be upset that we have had to reject their records after they have bothered to submit them (and they were sure they had identified them correctly).
Sometimes people are upset because they have asked in advance what a particular species is and they received a confident identification from a recognized expert via social media. Why then is NatureSpot questioning the authority of these experts? It's outrageous! But there is a difference between identifying something and being pretty sure it's correct and the standard of evidence required to support a scientific record. NatureSpot exists to promote awareness of the wildlife and wild places of Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland. We are happy if people use NatureSpot to identify things they see and this deepens their interest in the natural world. If our users want to contribute to our knowledge by submitting records, that's even better. Just bear in mind that identifying some species is difficult, and we all make mistakes.