Record Centre News

Sharing Sussex Beetle Records

Gastrophysa viridula

Peter Hodge has been keeping field notebooks for Coleoptera in Sussex since 1971. At Sussex Biodiversity Record Centre we are occasionally given old field notebooks by recorders so we can extract the information and turn it into biodiversity records which go into our species record database, and in 2006 Sussex Biodiversity Record Centre began the task of digitising Peter’s notebooks.
Each notebook contains about 3,000 records, collected by Peter for surveys he carried out as well as casual records. For tasks such as these, volunteer power is vital seeing them through. Over the years many volunteers at SxBRC have been busy typing away over one of the fourteen notebooks, and by 2015 eight notebooks had been typed up, checked by Peter and uploaded into the Sussex database.
As well as Peter, another 1,000 people have recorded at least one beetle in Sussex with records going back as far as 1850(?)! Most of our data now comes to us in a digital format, making it much easier to get into our database quickly, but notebooks such as Peter’s are valuable sources of ‘historic’ data that can show us what’s changed over the last 40 years.
We were eager to get the rest of the notebooks completed so we could put together a comprehensive list of all the beetles recorded in Sussex and be able to share the data with national recording schemes, so in 2015 SxBRC applied for a Natural England Open Licensing of Species Data grant. This was a great opportunity to complete digitising Peter’s notebooks, as well as being an opportunity to look into how ‘Open Data’ works within biological recording and what challenges might face us in the future, including discussing with other Sussex Coleoptera recorders about making their data open and available on the internet. The final outcome would be an ‘as-complete-as-possible’, good quality Sussex Coleoptera dataset available for use under an Open Licence (CC-BY), minimising duplication of records and following recorders wishes with regards to sharing their data.
The project was carried out over 6 months, where staff and volunteers typed up the remaining 15,000 records as well as prioritising other beetle datasets for import. Gathering all the data together was just one part of the project, as we launched a consultation into data sharing with the Sussex beetle recording community. We also opened up dialogues with the 17 different national Coleoptera recording schemes in Great Britain to talk about how we could share data in the best way for them in the future – not just as a one off data exchange.
After being digitised, verified, filtered for any data not to be shared, and formatted – we had 92,465 records ready to go onto the NBN Atlas!
The NBN, or National Biodiversity Network, is a membership organisation that encourages sharing of biological data in the United Kingdom and makes it available through an online map – the NBN Atlas. The new Atlas was launched in April this year and currently holds data from 119 data partners, for 71,327 different species. From here you can download species data as well as look at it online and carry out analysis using the in-built atlas tools. This means that anyone who has discovered a beetle in Sussex and wants to check where else it’s been recorded can go onto the Atlas and search through our dataset, to see if it’s been recorded in Sussex before and where.

You can find the dataset on the NBN Atlas here: https://registry.nbnatlas.org/public/show/dr1473

The project is finished, but we’re going to continue adding to the dataset and working with recording schemes as part of our ongoing commitment to sharing Sussex Coleoptera. If you download the data and do anything with it, we’d love to hear about it!

Roger Dumbrell, Zdenek Boucek and Peter Hodge

From left to right: Roger Dumbrell, Zdenek Boucek and Peter Hodge, Wilmington Downs, 1 August 1971