Frequently Asked Questions

Do you have a question about Merseyside BioBank and what we do? Take a look and see if it's already been answered! If not please do use the contact form, email us or find us on Facebook or Twitter.

 

In short? Everything!

I know! Give me a second. The is perhaps one of the trickiest questions out there, it might sound easy for me to say everything but there is a reasoning behind it. Biological/Wildlife Recording has been ongoing for a very long time. Those early naturalists probably weren't thinking 'i better make a record of this because that species is in decline'. More likely they were thinking something along the lines of 'wait till the chaps down the club see this beauty!'. Yet these early collectors form the basis of evidence for wildlife and changes in species abundance and distribution.

So, at least at Merseyside BioBank, what records do we want? Everything! Because we don't know how important these records will be in the future, we don't know what they will be used for. Trying to guess at that and force recording down a particular group may well turn us away from a species or species group that, in the future, we wish we'd had a better understanding of. You will already be aware of the drop in our 'common' urban Birds, decimated before anyone knew what was going on because they weren't monitored. More recently our Hedgehog and Frog are disappearing, i can almost guarantee without looking that the recent, known distribution in North Merseyside is poor..

But... (with some exceptions) you can't record everything. So record what your interested in, what get's you out of the door and stops you in your tracks. Go out and learn about nature, use wildlife recording as a tool to help you do that and get the most from your effort.

Perhaps, you want an immediate impact, to contribute to something known. In which case check out what are considered conservation priority species or local (North Merseyside Biological Action Plan) species. Things like Bats, Urban Birds, Farmland Birds, Wintering and Wetland birds, Dragonflies, Butterlies (particularly Hairstreaks), Amphibians or Reptiles.

Or, if you fancied something a bit different then help us fill in the gaps. The obscure and wonderful things we know little about, things like; Fungi, Slimes, Flies and Springtails!

In the end it really is up to you, sorry!

 

 

As a Local Environmental Records Centre our remit if Sefton, Liverpool, Knowsley and St Helens ('North Merseyside'). That is where our effort is focused and where we have greatest relevance. 

We can accept records from outside that area and we will ultimately pass on records to the relevant LERC. However, it is not recommended. Just like ourselves, other LERCs are well placed within local partnerships and decision making networks. Outside of their area they may not be consulted or considered so your records will not be used. Sharing of records between LERCs tends to be relatively in-frequent so it may be some time before your records are passed on.

However, systems such as RODIS, iRecord and our website (via iRecord) will automatically pass your record on so that it is available to the relevant LERC or in the case of iRecord and our website, anyone that has reason to access it.

 

 

Merseyside BioBank stores, manages and exports from a piece of database software called Recorder 6. However, we accept records in a wide range of forms and formats. What you use to manage your own records is entirely up to you, personal databases are simply tools to help you manage, keep and send your own records. There are a number os systems available, with new ones being created all of the time.

If you are not worried about maintaining your own database and just want to send in the occasional record then our prefered method is via an online tool such as RODIS, our website or iRecord. RODIS and iRecord also have mobile applications.

We suggest these online methods as they help to ensure that records entered have undergone a certain amount of pre-validation (e.g. making sure the scientific name is acceptable or a grid reference is in the propert format). This saves us a lot of time when we try to import the data into Recorder 6 as the main database will only accept certain formats.

Over time these tools allow you to build up and manage your own database of records, edit them, map and analyse them as well as recieve notification when your records get checked by an expert. Ultimately, assisting your learning.

The prefered method for 'bulk' records is generally a spreadsheet though the online systems can accept record uploads if you would like to keep your data together.

 

Wildlife records come to us in a variety of different ways. One of our main functions as a service is to collate that variety of information (e.g. emails, spreadsheets, web-forms, phone call's, paper documents..) and get it into a standardised format we can then report on.

Once a record comes in (whatever the form!) it is reviewed and logged for import into the main Recorder 6 database. It will undergo a series of validation checks to make sure it has all the required information in a useable format and is otherwise useable! Once in Recorder 6 we can start to report on and use the record in services.

In addition, once in Recorder 6 the record will be subject to verificationVerification is an ongoing process whereby all records are subject to review by a recognised expert for a particular species group. Typically this person is a regional representative of a National Societies or Recording Schemes (e.g. Botanical Society for Britain and Ireland). However, for some species this will be a national expert.

Because of the potential impact of the records we hold on local decisions taking it is of utmost importance that we can have as much confidence as possible that a particular record is correct.

Verification is also a very useful way for someone to learn more about a species and how to identify them. We encourage a recorder to contact a verifier directly where possible and work with them to support you in the identification process. Through verification your record will also be available to National Societies and Recording Schemes.

We then share the database with the Merseyside Environmental Advisory Service so that they can review planning applications, assess biodiversity risk and advise on the design of City Region strategy.

By this point data is also available to partner organisations such as the Lancashire Wildlife Trust and Lancashire & Cheshire Fauna Society for their work in addition to any statuatory and 'commercial' users who have a need to access data for project or statuatory purposes and organisations who want full resolution access as part of data sharing agreements (e.g. the Peoples Trust for Endangered Species and Bat Conservation Trust).

Beyond the regional we also then share data we have collated to the National Biodiversity Network (NBN) Atlas from which point it can be accessed by any non-commercial users such as the public or research institutions (Joint Nature Conservation Committee, Centre for Ecology and Hydrology) at a 2km scale.

Via the NBN the data is then shared globally to the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) where it is accessible for international research users, the public and the designation and monitoring of species at an international scale.

Once a record is 'in' we will use it in a variety of different ways. Broadly speaking we will make your records available to advise and information decision taking and conservation. As a LERC our highest impact is with local decision taking, forward planning and strategy. However, either directly or via other routes we will ensure that your record will have a far greater reach than us and the Liverpool City Region. General uses can be grouped loosely based on the general end user;

  • Planning - Generally speaking by the local planning authorities and their advisors. The data we hold forms the biodiversity evidence base for decision taking in the 4 districts
    • Highlighting Local Priority Species
    • ​Local Authority Local Plan/Land Allocations
    • Development Control/Planning Application
    • Forward Planning
    • Strategic Development/Review
    • Local Wildlife Sites Designation/Review
    • Ecological Network
    • Green Infrastructure Planning
  • Commercial use - Typically developers/ecological consultancies when designing new developments or infrastructure and want to 'build in' biodiversity or want to know what constraints might exist around a proposal
    • House improvement
    • Housing estate construction
    • Industrial site
    • Rail works
    • Utilities
    • Highways
    • Other re-development
  • Research - Such as at the request of universities, university students or other research bodies
    • We do get research requests and many students volunteer with us. However, the majority of research use is via the datasets we share on the NBN Atlas and GBIF.
  • Conservation - Such as at the request of conservation organisations (charities/NGO's)
    • ​Nature Reserve Management/Monitoring
    • Landscape Scale Conservation ('Bee Lines')
  • Public - Information is available at public requests (interest/transparency)
    • ​Individual public information requests about a site or species
    • Local naturalist requests wanting to target their recording effort or know what has been found (what hasn't been reported!)
    • Community groups concerned about the impact of development.
  • Statuatory Agencies
    • Environment Agency permitting functions and waterways work
    • Joint Nature Conservation Committee species and habitat monitoring and designation

I am thinking about sending in records of wildlife to help local conservation but there are lots of different organisations asking me to send records to them. Who should i send them to?

There are many different organisations calling for wildlife records for many different purposes. Knowing who to send them to can be tricky and it is perhaps helpful to think about what it is you want to achieve by making a record.

Are you looking to learn and perhaps specialise in recording a species group, e.g. plants, dragonflies or bryophytes? If so then you are best getting in touch with the appropriate National Recording Scheme or Society. These national organisations collect species records and typically have a national focus. More importantly, by getting to know them they will be able to offer you training and support specific to your field of interest. They will probably run a national recording project which collects structured data and allows for confident monitoring of wildlife in the UK as a whole. 

Many recording schemes and societies have regional experts who coordinate activity, often with affliliated local groups which you can join. Regional representatives for these societies are usually our independant verifier (someone who checks records for a particular taxonomic group).

Are you a generalist looking to highlight areas important for local biodiversity? If so then it may be better to at least send us a copy of your records directly. We will pass records to the relevant National Recording Scheme or Society just as the majority of them will pass records to us. However, this process can be slow and at times takes years.

Impacts on biodiversity at a local scale tend to happen rapidly so it is important we have access to information as soon as possible. National level aggregation and review tends to take place at a slower pace and much lower resolution by which time chances are we have shared your records 'up'.

Are you a generalist who wants to highlight areas important for local biodiversity but also learn more? Rather than just sending in records it can be far more rewarding to join a local naturalist group. In Merseyside we are fortunate to have a number of friendly groups, always keen to take on new members and share their knowledge. You can search for many of them on our 'local groups' page.

Alternativley, get in touch and let us know what you're in to!

 

 

If Merseyside BioBank only covers North Merseyside, what other LERCs are nearby and how can i find them?

Merseyside BioBank shares a boundary with three other Local Environmental Records Centres (previously LRC's);

More information on each of these LERCs can be found on their websites, linked above. Records Centre boundaries can also be checked using the 'find a LERC' tool.

What area does Merseyside BioBank cover and why is this different from Merseyside EAS and other LERCs?

Like many Local Environmental Records Centre around the country, Merseyside BioBank evolved to fit a need and a partnership. In the case of MBB we became established as part of a Heritage Lottery and European Regional Development Fund project focused on the area of 'North Merseyside', covering Sefton, Liverpool, Knowsley and St Helens.

This developed from and alongside the North Merseyside Biological Action Plan and North Merseyside Local Sites Partnership which is tasked with recognising and conserving species and habitat of local significance. The Local Nature Partnership, Nature Connected, born out of DEFRA's 2011 paper 'The natural choice: securing the value of nature' now covers the whole of the Liverpool City Region though Merseyside BioBank retains it's original coverage.

Do you have equipment which recorders/naturalists can use or borrow?

Yes. Part of our core function as a Local Environmental Records Centre is to support local recording activity. One of the ways we do this is to provide equipment and resources both in house and in the field. We have a selection of field survey equipment, a lending library of species identification guides as well as reference books and microscopes for use 'in-office'. 

The office itself is also a resource available for local recorders so feel free to drop in and make use of the facilities!

I have been made aware of a new development on green space. I regularly see wildlife on the site and the local area has lots of biodiversity, including protected species like Great Crested Newt and Bats. What can i do?

If you suspect a developer has ignored protected species present on a site this may be a wildlife crime in which case it should be reported to the police. You can also contact your planning officer to find out whether or not biodiversity has been properly considered as part of a planning application.

You can make a public information request with us to see what wildlife information we already hold. If we don't have information on the species you have seen then you can submit wildlife records to us to update our information. The information we hold is available to the local planning authorities via the Merseyside Environmental Advisory Service (MEAS) who make recommendations and provide advice to the Liverpool City Region planning authorities, in part, on the biodiversity data we provide.

In addition professional guidance drawn up by the Chartered Institue of Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM) recommends that where the is a risk to biodiversity, the developer themselves makes use of biodiversity data (generally through the comissioning of an ecological consultant who carries out a desk-study) to ensure compliance with the British Standard 42020:2013 Biodiversity – Code of Practice for Planning and Development.

"It is increasingly important to take biodiversity into account when making decisions that have an impact on the environment, and there is a legal/policy requirement to do so. Those making, or advising on, such decisions should use biodiversity data from the appropriate source(s). This is necessary to ensure that decisions are based on the best available evidence and are as cost-effective and transparent as possible."

Assuming the data exists and the planning authority has followed the appropriate guidance (and any advice from MEAS) the development will likely have conditions relating to the presence of priority species or habitat (such as mitigation) as is required as part of the National Planning and Policy Framework (NPPF), their Biodiversity Duty and related legislation (such as the NERC Act).

 

I would like to know more about wildlife in my local area. What can you tell me and how do i make the request?

Biodiversity information requests are free to non-commercial users (e.g. so long as you are not making a profit on it's use), and so long as it's use is not considered a risk to local biodiversity, as part of our function as public informaiton service for North Merseyside (Sefton, Liverpool, Knowsley and St Helens). Non-commercial users can also access the majority of the information we have collated directly via the National Biodiversity Network Atlas. However, it can currently only be viewed at 2km resolution to protect sensitive species and at the request of some suppliers

If you are in one of these areas then we can carry out a search of all wildlife information that currently exists within the system. It is important to note that if wildlife has not been reported to us or if it has not yet been 'digitised' and entered into the database then information cannot be reported on. Similarly, it will note be available to any of other service users, such as the local planning authorities and conservation organisations.

If you would like to make a request all we need to know is;

  • The area - This can be a distance from a point (e.g. 500m from your address) or a site (such as a park). We have to create a 'boundary' so a map showing the area is very useful.
  • What do you want to know - Perhaps you want to know what species have been reported for a site or simply if Hedgehog is known in the area. Let us know what it is you want to discover.
    • We can supply species information and some detailed habitat information where available and depending on request.
  • Are there any other limitations - Do you want to limit the search, e.g. only wildlife reported in the last 10 years.
  • What form would you like the information in - We are able to provide wildlife information in a variety of different formats including;
    • kml files for Google Earth
    • pdf site reports
    • excel spreadsheets

 

 

I have never head of Merseyside BioBank before and i wanted to learn more about what it is you do!

I'll try to keep it brief! Merseyside BioBank is the Local Environmental Records Centre (a.k.a LERC) for Sefton, Liverpool, Knowsley and St Helens.

In short we provide a public service working with partners to support local natural history groups, community groups and individual biological recorders to help them collect information on local wildlife then curate and share that information so that it can be used to its fullest to benefit local wildlife now and into the future. In addition we train office based volunteers to mobilise biodiversity information, such as information from public planning documents, historical papers and research. We also recieve information from a variety of national sources as a local node for the National Biodiversity Network.

All of this information is then used by the likes of;

  • Conservation NGO's (e.g. when managing or monitoring a nature reserve) 
  • Local Planning departments (e.g. to assess and for risks to local biodiversity and forward plan for future strategic development locally and as a City Region)
  • Local Community Groups (e.g. As part of the local authority 'Duty to make available environmental information on request', transparency around decision taking and local public interest in wildlife)
  • Universities and Research institutions (e.g. in support of research that requies large quantities of biodiversity information/historic information. We can now track citations!)
  • Statuatory organisations (e.g. when providing permits to Industry, carrying out regional and national infrastructure projects and when deciding what species need conservation effort).

You can find out more about LERC's via the Association of Local Environmental Records Centres