Who's who in the world of biological recording?


Britain is very lucky to have a rich history in biological recording. Natural history was a popular pastime in Victorian Britain and our taxonomists were (and still are) responsible for the description and recording of species across the world. As a result of this history, the UK has a well developed network of organisations involved in biological recording. Getting your head around what these recording organisations do and how they can help you can be confusing, so we hope this will provide some clarity. This list is by no means exhaustive, but hopefully it will be useful to both those new to biological recording and those already involved. 

Biological Records Centre (BRC)


This is a publicly funded organisation that works closely with the biological recording community, particularly the recording schemes and societies. This work includes the production of resources (such as recording scheme websites, mobile phone apps, atlases and guidance documents), the undertaking of research to better understand how to improve or interpret biological recording and collation of datasets on behalf of recording schemes and societies.


National Biodiversity Network (NBN)


The NBN is a network of over 200 organisations, such as government agencies, research bodies, local environmental records centres, conservation charities, commercial companies as well as local and national wildlife recording groups. They are committed to sharing UK wildlife data and making it easily available. In addition to managing the taxonomic species dictionary for the UK and producing guidance for the biological recording community, the NBN manages the NBN Atlas. The Atlas is a portal through which biological records can be accessed by users. It currently holds nearly 220 million records across 43,000 species. Ideally, this is where all biological records should end up. Records are submitted to the NBN by organisations that collate records (e.g. Local Environmental Records Centres, National Recording Schemes and Conservation NGOs). 


National Forum for Biological Recording (NFBR)



The NFBR acts as the independent voice of biological recording in the UK. Their Facebook group provides a great forum for sharing news and events. The NFBR seeks to promote and influence the development of biological recording and the use, management and dissemination of biodiversity information.  One of the highlights of the biological recording calendar is the annual NFBR conference, where speakers from numerous organisations speak about a topic related to the theme for that year. 



Local Environmental Records Centres (LERCs)


LERCs are organisations that collate and manage biological records for a defined geographic area (for example the Cumbria Biodiversity Data Centre collates biological records for the county of Cumbria). Biological recorders may send biological records (of any species)  to LERCs to be added to their database for the area they cover. LERCs are able to interpret the local importance of biological records (for example the location of European Protected Species records in relation to planning proposals) and may have contacts for species experts for some groups. An Association of Local Environmental Records Centres (ALERC) was formed in 2009 and many LERCs are now members. The ALERC website has an interactive map where you can find the LERC for any area in the UK. 



National Recording Schemes (NRS)

National recording schemes collate species records for a defined group of organisms and provide guidance on how to identify and record the species they cover. Records of the species covered by a NRS can be submitted to the scheme by a biological recorder for inclusion in the NRS database. The size of the species group these schemes cover can range from relatively few species (such as the Earthworm Society of Britain) to larger species groups (Such as the Bees, Wasps & Ants Recording Society) or even a a very large and diverse group of species (such as the Botanical Society of Britain & Ireland). These organisations have the expertise to verify records for the species they cover. These schemes often have social media accounts to help with any ID of recording queries online. A list of national recording schemes can be found on the BRC website



Conservation NGOs

Although the focus of conservation NGOs is primarily conservation, most NGOs are involved in biological recording as records allow them to understand species population trends, which they use to prioritise the conservation work they undertake. Conservation NGOs can be national (such as the British Trust for Ornithology) or local (such as the Wildlife Trusts). Some specialise on a group of species (e.g.  Buglife) or a habitat (e.g. The Woodland Trust). Conservation NGOs may work with local recording groups (like the network of Amphibian & Reptile Groups of the UK working with Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust), run national monitoring programmes (such as the Bat Conservation Trust National Bat Monitoring Programme) or encourage citizen science based surveys (like the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch) – all of which produce biological records.


Field Studies Council (FSC)


The FSC is an environmental education charity with centres across the UK. Our work helps many biological recorders as we provide training in the form of natural history courses which cover a wide range of subjects, species and habitats. We also produce invaluable resources for the biological recording community, such as identification guides, keys, and atlases. We have achieved funding for several biological recording focussed projects over the last 10 years to encourage more people to record. This includes the current BioLinks project. This project focusses on invertebrate recording, providing subsidised training courses, events and developing digital tools to help more people learn how to identify and record invertebrates, as many of these species are in serious decline. 


Other Organisations

Local groups are also of huge importance to the biological recording community and these can consist of general natural history groups, such as the London Natural History Society, or groups that cover certain species, such as the Hertfordshire Moth Group. Some organisations that may also be worth a look are the British Entomological & Natural History Society and the Amateur Entomologists Society who focus on the same groups but have members across the UK. Many more organisations are involved in biological recording in the UK but we're trying our best not to over complicate things by listing them all, most can be found by searching on the internet if you type in the species/groups/locations you're interested in.

We hope you now understand a bit more about all of the organisations involved in biological recording!

Blog by Keiron Brown (FSC BioLinks Project Manager)