Documenting Carron Valley’s wildlife – Adam and Esther Brooker
One of the draws that influenced our decision to move to Carron Valley in August 2017 was the environment – for two biologists who are very into wildlife and nature, it’s a perfect place to live, and we love being able to show our son James some amazing sights, like ospreys flying past our window! As scientists, we are used to (and quite enjoy!) recording data and we thought: wouldn’t it be great to record the wildlife in our surrounding area? We’d really like to find out things like how many species are found in the area, what rare species live here and track trends in our migratory species (such as the ospreys, which nest here every summer). Keeping wildlife records is also hugely helpful for the protection and conservation of our natural environment, as it might help us identify any changes or new threats, such as invasive non-native species.
Last summer we set up a new project on a citizen science app called ‘iNaturalist’ to do just this. You could think of iNaturalist as a social media platform for nature enthusiasts, run by the California Academy of Sciences and National Geographic. Basically, it allows users to record species sightings anywhere in the world and upload it to the app. Sightings that are recorded with a photo can be verified by the network of expert users, which then classifies the sighting as ‘research grade’ and can be used as scientific data (without a photo, the sighting is still valid but classified as ‘casual grade’). If you set up a project on the app, with defined geographic boundaries, any sightings that any user records within that area falls into the project. Users can also join the project and follow updates. And you don’t have to be good at identifying wildlife either – the app uses your photo to make a suggested ID, and it will be verified or corrected by other users. You do need to have GPS detection on your camera or phone, otherwise you’ll need to add the location of the sighting manually.
The project we set up is called ‘Carron Valley Biodiversity Project’. Admittedly a lot of the sightings we’ve uploaded are from our own garden, but we also had a go at starting to map species in the Community Woodland and hope to continue with this over the summer. Already we’ve got 79 observations of 62 species (as of March 2020). On iNaturalist you can record pretty much anything and everything living you can see – insects, plants, mammals, birds and fish.
Can others get involved? Yes! We’d love as many people to get involved as possible. It’s totally open and free for anyone to use. You can use iNaturalist on your computer or on your phone – for the latter, go to your app store and download the app. You’ll need to set up an account and it would be great if you could join the CVBP – but you don’t have to join it for your sightings to be included. And it doesn’t have to be anything you see from this point on either – if you have any old wildlife photos, with information about when they were taken and where, these can also be uploaded. We have seen lots of species that we haven’t managed to record yet (e.g. red squirrel, badgers and foxes) and we know that others have seen species that we haven’t (e.g. pine martin). It would be great if we can build up a picture of the wildlife on our doorsteps, in our Community Woodland and beyond.
To join iNaturalist on your computer: go to www.inaturalist.org, create an account and start recording!
To join iNaturalist via the app: go to your device’s app store and search ‘iNaturalist’, download it to your device and create an account (or login, if you’ve set one up on your computer).
You can record live (i.e. take a photo from the app and upload it immediately) or take a photo and upload it later. For any questions or if you need help getting started, please get in touch on email below.