A significant milestone was reached recently when the number of records submitted through Ireland’s Citizen Science Portal in 2020 passed the 100,000 mark. The 100,000th record was of Common Knapweed (Centaurea nigra) or Mínscoth as Gaeilge and was from the Great Southern Trail – Greenway, Co. Limerick and was recorded by Dave Guiry on the 04/07/2020. By comparison, the 100,000th record for 2019 was submitted on 22 August.
The three months of the Covid-19 lockdown have seen a remarkable increase in the rate of recording, with April experiencing a 54% increase in the monthly number of records submitted; May a remarkable 70% increase; and June with a 66% increase despite the poor spell of weather. It is clear that people turned to recording and engaging with biodiversity in response to the Covid-19 lockdown.
When informed that his record of Common Knapweed was the 100,000th record submitted to Ireland’s Citizen Portal in 2020, Dave Guiry gave us an insight into how he became involved in biological recording and why he continues to record:
“I retired in 2010 and this allowed me to get out and about much more and indulge my interest in nature. I had been a member of Birdwatch Ireland for many years and participated in the Garden Bird survey every winter. I do believe it is very important to keep records of the natural world around us, so that we are aware of the problems that exist and hopefully correct them before it is too late.
I became aware of the National Biodiversity Data Centre when Dr. Tomás Murray (former Senior Ecologist with the Data Centre) visited Newcastle West to give a talk on Butterfly identification. He encouraged us to send in records of our observations. Initially I just recorded Butterflies, but have been expanding my knowledge ever since.
I try to get photographs of anything that I can’t identify and pore through my reference books when I get home. It has become a great interest for me and has added an extra dimension to my walks and cycle trips around the local countryside. I have walked the Great Southern Trail Greenway hundreds of times but still spot plants, and sometimes birds, I haven’t seen before.
I believe it is very important to remain active as we age. I am at my happiest when out in the country and get a real thrill when I discover something new. The further out you go, the easier it is to ‘social distance’ which is important at the moment. I missed my walks when we were confined to 2km but I am happy again, now that I can wander further afield.
As difficult as the first six months of this year have been, it appears that biological recording has been of great solace to many. The lockdown has allowed people to spend more time on their interests, learning more about their locality and reconnecting with nature in general. It has perhaps slowed the pace of life throughout the country to allow for greater appreciation of native biodiversity, which can so easily be overlooked. Our #SpeciesADay recording initiative, which was set up during the lockdown to encourage recording within local areas, has also seen fantastic levels of engagement.
“2020 has seen a marked increase in recording activity throughout the country,” according to Oisín Duffy, Surveys and Records Officer with the National Biodiversity Data Centre, “There has been a significant surge in recording activity, particularly from April of this year, with figures higher than we have ever seen. On average, over 3,500 records are being entered each week in 2020. Massive thanks to all our recorders who have made this possible.
Ireland’s Citizen Science portal is available to be used by anyone; if you see a species of note and are sure of its identification, please submit the details to https://records.biodiversityireland.ie/ so that the observation can be added to our national biodiversity database. This will allow us to continue to build the knowledge base on what species we have in Ireland and help us to better understand how they are distributed.