Latest news

New data search charges from April 2018

early hazel catkins

After 'freezing' our main hourly rate for a couple of years, increasing costs and inflation mean we now need to increase our search fees for the next financial year. We need to be self-supporting and the increases have been made according to the same principles applied by adjacent LERCs, who face similar issues. We will still endeavour to make our search fees as reasonable as possible.

See the Data searches page for more details and some examples of typical costs.

Robinswood Hill Office gossip

view of Robinswood Hill from Brookthorpe

After a rocky start to the year with most of the Robinswood Hill GWT and GCER staff suffering the now-famously bad colds prevalent everywhere, we have settled down to some serious spring-cleaning, pending renovations to the Robinswood Hill offices later this year. It won't be for a few months, but we are hoping to keep data search and other service disruptions to a minimum during any temporary moves.

The Trust's Director of Conservation, Colin Studholme - head of the Evidence Team of which GCER forms a part - is due to retire at the end of March, so we will see changes then as a new Director of Conservation takes over. Meanwhile, in between spring-cleaning and catching up after absences, we have been working on a new Development Plan for GCER. It includes a major database overhaul which we hope will result in faster, more flexible and more accessible data searches in future. Watch the News page for updates!

Happy New Year!

early hazel catkins

Happy New Year and all the best for 2018 from GCER to all our supporters, data users and colleagues!

News from the Forest

a Foresters' Forest logo in green

Following on from the successful development phase during 2015-17, the Foresters' Forest Heritage Lottery Fund 5-year delivery phase was launched in summer and already has a set of biodiversity-related projects up and running, with more scheduled to start in 2018. The first season of the delivery phase was discussed today at a meet-up of biodiversity partners in Cinderford.

GCER produced the biodiversity baseline report for the development phase of this ambitious project, and will continue to collate data from the biodiversity-themed work over the next four years. Today's meetings and presentations suggest an excellent range of research and management improvements with a lot of data coming our way over the next four years. Projects within the theme "Our Stronghold for Nature" include:

  • Pond and Great Crested Newt surveys
  • Veteran tree surveys
  • Batscape research and design (bat-friendly landscapes)
  • Grassland management for open areas - with accompanying bird and invertebrate surveys
  • Bird surveys and habitat improvements for key species
  • Wetscape: bringing back natural mire to the Forest of Dean
  • Mapping ancient woodland flora

Biodiversity is only one area of interest for the Foresters' Forest: there are also projects centred on the Forest's cultural history, archaeology and human heritage. There are lots of events and activities to get involved with: for more details, follow Foresters' Forest on Facebook or Twitter

2017 NBN Conference

Professor Michael Hassell on stage to open the NBN Conference, with the title slide presentation in the background.

GCER Development Manager Linda and Biodiversity Information Officer Rob both attended the 2017 National Biodiversity Network Conference, held this year in Cardiff on 16th and 17th November. Apart from being an opportunity to see our ex-colleague Holly again (now working for Wales Biodiversity) this was an excellent chance to hear what others in the recording community are working on, along with recorders, researchers and developers. Download the conference brochure here for more details of the participants.

Entitled "Data - What is it good for?", the conference was held at the National Museum of Wales, offering a great lecture theatre and other good facilities, surrounded by the usual mammoths and giant deer remains, geology installations and other museum goodness. Rob attended workshops on Thursday 16th and on the Friday Linda gave a short talk about the results of GCER's survey of ecological consultants (see earlier news item).

Talks and workshops have now been reviewed and photos and videos are available on the NBN website here.

Survey of ecological consultants

a screengrab of GCER's recent online survey

Like many LERCs, GCER is looking to increase its online presence to offer more services for data users. Back in April we contacted ecological consultants who regularly use our data searches, to find out what they feel about this and how we might improve our outputs. We are grateful to the 27 consultants who took the time to answer the detailed Survey Monkey questionnaire which asked a range of questions about our current and potential data searches. Some of the findings:

  • all but one of the 27 respondents had used other LERCs as well as GCER
  • half (52%) have used online data search forms and outputs as well as printed or emailed results
  • 3 respondents often used online payments for searches and 3 occasionally - but the majority have never paid directly online
  • around one quarter (26%) had never got data directly from the National Biodiversity Network, but over a third had (36%), at least for species data
  • GCER's "answers to general queries", "data analysis" and "interpretation" services were less-often used, but all scored as "good" or "excellent"
  • "species lists", "maps" and "standard data search reports" were used by most of the respondents and were mostly graded as "good" or "excellent", but some thought these services to be "patchy" in usefulness, especially the printed maps.

The general response was positive, with several consultants praising Rob's helpfulness and prompt response to queries. We got lots of valuable constructive comments, particularly about how online services could be useful - and how not - and how the tricky task of mapping species records might be improved.

Many thanks to everyone who did this survey - it's much appreciated. The results will help us to develop a better service with the limited resources available.

Box Wood Bioblitz 13th-14th May

Bioblitz survey forms and pawprint tracks from hedgehog tunnels

From midday on Saturday 13th to midday on Sunday 14th May members of the Stroud Wildlife Survey Group joined GCER's Biodiversity Information Officer, Rob, and Gloucestershire Naturalists' Trust recorders to undertake a 24-hour “bioblitz” of Box Wood. The aim was to record as many species of flora and fauna as possible to build up a baseline of data on this newly-acquired GWT reserve. Activities included mammal-trapping and bat-detecting as well as field survey for plants and animals.

Over 350 birds, plants, fungi, invertebrates, lichens and mammals were recorded. The weather was mostly nice and the good villagers of Box turned up both to join in and to share their excellent village hall catering. Many thanks to Box community for their hospitality, which helped to make the day special. Highlights included finding badger pawprints in the "hedgehog tunnels" (badgers are too curious to resist these!), and an exotic-looking Snakefly - a rarely-recorded, distant relative of lacewings. Many thanks to everyone who took part.

National Biodiversity Network becomes the NBN Atlas

the new NBN Atlas

From 1st April the National Biodiversity Network Gateway is no more, replaced by the NBN Atlas. Based on the pilot Atlas of Living Scotland website, the new Atlas format aims to improve on the familiar (but sometimes rather confusing) NBN Gateway.

For several years GCER has been a Data Provider for the NBN, uploading hundreds of thousands of records at a "public" resolution of 1km grid squares. Anyone could log onto the NBN Gateway and access the data, although they needed to get in touch with GCER if more detailed data access was required.

The new Atlas website differs from the old Gateway in several ways:

  • more mobile-friendly and appealing design
  • showcases Data Providers and recording schemes
  • offers new data analysis and other useful features
  • no built-in system for getting more detailed access

Users of the Atlas will need to contact Data Providers directly if they require a higher resolution dataset; all data will be available "as provided" except "sensitive" species, for which the public resolution will automatically be blurred to protect vulnerable species. The vast majority of records, however, will be available at the full resolution they were provided with. GCER will be updating - and adapting, if necessary - all our datasets to make best use of the new format. A full new set of data will be available at the beginning of May.

Online hedgehog survey passes the 1500 records mark!

Seen a Hedgehog logo

GCER's online hedgehog survey forms were launched in July 2015, and have since attracted over 1700 hedgehog sightings, logged by over 1000 GWT members, staff and many members of the public not previously involved with wildlife surveys. The huge popularity of hedgehogs, plus their relative tameness compared with other wild mammals (most of which are never seen by the public) has resulted in an incredible response. In the first thousand sightings, 1293 individuals were recorded, including many families with baby and half-grown hedgehogs. There were also useful records of places where hedgehogs had been looked for, but not seen.

A big Thank You to everyone who has contributed so far - please keep the records coming!