On submitting biodiversity data

Recently – on  International Day for Biological Diversity to be exact – I blogged about the various events going on and my own participation in submitting data records to the National Biodiversity Data Centre . I’ve been doing this for over a year now, ever since sighting a red squirrel in Glenbawn Woods, thinking “there must be a way of reporting this sighting”, and then finding the NBDC site.

Ever since I have been regularly uploading to the site. I have found the positives of this to be a motivation to monitor the bird life in my garden, and thereby making observations such as my relative lack of  magpies . It also has motivated me to try and identify insects and plants I either couldn’t or had forgotten. And I find challenges like the 5000 records  stimulating.

However I also wonder if the habit has a downside. I have noticed myself reporting very common species – daisy, dock leaf – while not bothering to try and identify more challenging ones. I do wonder just how useful this data is?  In a way, the very act of noticing and recording serves to construct a map of how humans interact with nature  in Ireland. However I have reservations that my own records miss out a lot of the biodiversity I am actually encountering. Obviously fully capturing this biodiversity would be impossible (which in itself is something to think about) but nevertheless I found myself looking for “easy wins” to the expense of the more difficult identification that might broaden my knowledge as well as experience.

More fundamentally, I have caught myself fiddling with my phone in the midst of a walk or a quiet moment, determined to use the GPS facility of the BioDiversity Ireland App to capture exactly where the sighting was made. Perhaps the 5000 records challenge brought this into focus. As it happened, I began the day in Tipperary, had a trip into Waterford, then a family trip to Cork, and finally went to Dublin via Laois. I tweeted to this effect:

Not an average day.. but what did recording a dock leaf in Dunamase achieve? More fundamentally, have I lured myself into a “productive” way of looking at the experience of nature, one which is literally quantifiable?

None of the above should be interpreted in any way as a criticism of the Biodiversity Ireland team or site, or indeed the concept of reporting sightings. I am reflecting on my own approach – what is says about myself in a somewhat narcissistic fashion perhaps, but also what it may say about a cultural tendency towards “productivity”



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