Record the signs of Spring!

As another member of SEI-Y staff interested in Participatory Research, I’d like to introduce myself. I’m Rachel Pateman and my background is in nature conservation. After my first degree I worked as a Conservation Officer for the Wildlife Trust in Cambridgeshire and then studied for a PhD in the Biology Department at the University of York. My research focussed on how butterflies in the UK are changing the types of habitat they use in response to climate change.

I started work at SEI-Y in January 2013, first of all on the OPAL project ( As much of the research for my PhD used existing datasets of species records, I took an interest in the work OPAL is doing to get more people involved in biological recording.

A biological record is simply a record of when and where a species has been observed and by whom. There is a long history of biological recording in the UK and in total, the National Biodiversity Network (, which acts as a central “warehouse” for all this data, now holds in excess of 90 million records, a simply amazing figure. This phenomenal resource has been generated by the expertise and dedication of countless volunteers and provides an invaluable opportunity to understand the state of wildlife in the UK.

One of the key aims of OPAL is to provide accessible ways into wildlife recording for those new to it and to support those already actively involved. This has been partly achieved through the NBN’s development of Indicia (, a toolkit for building wildlife recording websites. I used this platform to build a wildlife recording website for the University of York. We hope that, not only will this encourage more people to get involved in biological recording, but also provide us with the information to better understand the biodiversity value of our campuses, how this is changing and how it could be improved.

Recording wildlife

Over the past week there has been a distinct sense that spring is on its way, hawthorn and elder are coming into leaf, blackbirds are collecting nesting material and I’ve even seen a couple of beautiful Peacock butterflies. So now is a great time to get out and start recording the signs of spring.

If you happen to be on the University of York campus, you can record your sightings at

Anywhere else, you can use, a national recording website also built using Indicia.

For more information about the University’s wildlife recording website see

speckled wood


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