The Mammal Society wins national Open Data award

The Mammal Society is very proud to have received the John Sawyer National Biodiversity Network (NBN) Open Data Award. This acknowledges the large contribution the society makes to understanding UK mammals, managing their conservation, and making this information freely available to others through the hard work of volunteers.

The UK Awards for Biological Recording and Information Sharing are a new initiative developed by the NBN, the National Forum for Biological Recording and the Biological Records Centre. Their aim is to recognise outstanding contributions to biological recording, leading to a greater understanding of UK wildlife. The John Sawyer Open Data award is named in memory of NBN CEO, John Sawyer, who sadly passed away recently, and is awarded to the member of the NBN who makes the greatest contribution to open biodiversity data in the UK.

Rachel Stroud, Interim Chief Executive, said, “The National Biodiversity Network has 160+ data partners, and these organisations vary in their commitment to open data.  Our national online database, the NBN Gateway, has more than 112 million biological records and some of these data are shared openly, but many are not available at full resolution or are hidden from public view. The National Mammal Atlas Project dataset on the NBN Gateway currently has 43,207 open records on the NBN Gateway, 38,546 are available at 100m resolution, the remainder are also fully available at 1km, 2km and 10km depending on the capture resolution. The NBN Secretariat is honoured to present the inaugural John Sawyer NBN Open Biodiversity Data Award to the Mammal Society because of their commitment and dedication to sharing these valuable data more widely.”

The Mammal Society is currently compiling a National Mammal Atlas to map the current distributions of UK mammal species. The Atlas will be the first in 20 years. The Atlas brings together tens of thousands of mammal sightings and mammal signs, all of which are verified by volunteers. The idea of publishing an updated mammal atlas was promoted by Derek Yalden, late President of The Mammal Society, who recognised the importance to conservation of tracking expansion or contraction of mammal distributions. The 43,207 open records currently in the National Mammal Atlas Project dataset on the NBN Gateway will be used to direct conservation efforts to where they are needed most.

Derek Crawley, Atlas Officer for the Mammal Society, said, “Mammals are notoriously difficult to see as many species are small, nocturnal, shy and secretive, in any combination! As such, they are critically under recorded in the UK. Receiving this Open Data award highlights our Mammal Society policy of doing ‘More for Mammals’ and acknowledges the hard work of our county based volunteers and verifiers who are all ensuring that we can put mammals on the map.”

However, the hard work involved in collating data for the National Mammal Atlas is not over yet. Data collection for the Atlas is still continuing until the 31st December 2015, and anyone can contribute. The Mammal Society are asking anyone that has seen mammal signs or the mammals themselves to get involved by visiting the website or downloading the free Mammal Tracker App and submitting your records of mammal sightings and signs by web or by phone. The mammal species with the most records submitted for the Atlas through the Mammal Tracker App is the rabbit, closely followed by the Grey Squirrel, both of which are convenient to photograph by mobile phone. However, many records submitted are not direct sightings, but are evidence of mammal presence such as tracks, feeding evidence such as nibbled nuts or feeding stations, nests or droppings. Some mammals and their signs are difficult to identify, but all records are verified by our experts, so every record submission counts towards UK mammal conservation.
Fiona Mathews, Chair of the Mammal Society said, “We are particularly interested in getting records of species that many people consider widespread such as moles, Wood Mice and Common Shrews. History shows us the dangers of ignoring common species: these are vitally important to ecosystems, yet frequently collapse before anyone notices.”