“Hello! I’m Clare Blencowe – your new Record Centre Manager.” It’s something I’d meant to say sooner and now I find myself already a month into the job. Wondering, how did this happen?!
I’ve been an admirer of the Sussex Biodiversity Record Centre for the best part of a decade, since I was one of Penny Green’s volunteers. I’ve valued the support of the team here, in the intervening years, in my voluntary role as the Sussex coordinator for Butterfly Conservation’s BNM recording scheme.
Returning as the Record Centre Manager feels like an enormous privilege; I’m conscious that being the custodian of Sussex’s biodiversity information is also a great responsibility.
I’m lucky that there is already an excellent data request service in place, providing professional bespoke reports for anyone wanting biodiversity information for sites in Sussex.
I’m also inheriting good working relationships with a growing list of partners, including local planning authorities, government agencies, conservation bodies and other organisations to whom biodiversity information is important, such as water companies. Through these partner relationships we make high quality environmental information available to decision-makers in planning, land management and conservation across Sussex.
These are services we can only provide by working closely with the local recording community: the people who are actually out there, in Sussex, identifying the great variety of species and habitats that exist and feeding that information through to us. The effort that goes into this – driven largely by volunteers, enthusiasts and folk who’ve simply made the time to notice and appreciate what’s around us – is hugely inspiring. And the results, from microscopic observations to landscape-scale surveys, as showcased at our annual Adastra seminar, are endlessly fascinating.
We couldn’t handle all this information without technology: systems and databases enable us to organise, analyse and interpret all this data, as well as present it in accessible and interesting ways. I’ve arrived at a time when technology, especially online recording, is revolutionising biological recording, and is bringing with it a new set of opportunities and challenges. This makes recording groups and the people involved in recording as critical as they’ve ever been, to ensure data users can continue to have confidence in the quality of the information we provide.
But these are not challenges we’re facing on our own. Here at Sussex Biodiversity Record Centre, we’re also part of the Association of Local Environmental Record Centres, and the National Biodiversity Network (known as the NBN). We will all need to work together to ensure biological data continues to be collected, valued, looked after and shared appropriately.
As the saying goes: we live in ‘interesting times’. And I’m looking forward to getting stuck in.