We were recently informed that the consortium bid to the Millennium Fund for the establishment of a national network of records centres has been unsuccessful. Clearly this is a great disappointment since without the substantial funding which the bid offered it will be harder to achieve the goal of a growing data base of high quality records. However, the consortium will continue to seek funds from other sources and in the meantime we should not let the absence of external funding stop us from continuing our own local initiatives.
Our objectives remain unaltered. We will be establishing a computerised records system to provide information to a wide range of users including conservation organisations, local authorities, planners and the general public. We will also be analysing and in some cases publishing data to assist with biodiversity planning and the implementation of strategies and to assess the state of Worcestershire's wildlife with a view to drawing up a "Red Data Book" for the county.
In March last year we had the first recorders meeting at which we launched the new initiative and over the twelve months since then there has been very considerable progress not least in the increasing flow of records to John Meiklejohn at the present centre. Our thanks for this and please keep the records coming - while the seven-spot ladybird seems to be a rarity noted only in two or three tetrads there is clearly much to do!
A brief audit of the records reveals the not unexpected finding that the drawers for birds, butterflies and flowering plants are reasonably well filled whilst those for mites, weevils or hymenoptera remain woefully small. The series of introductory courses on some of these less well known groups was started to try to redress the balance and it pleasing to note that all have fully booked. We hope now that specialist groups will be established to maintain interest and plan recording. Information about the first of these appears elsewhere in this edition of The Record. Further courses will be arranged.
Many Trust members answered the questionnaire about their interest in recording and we have again been delighted at the large response. I hope those who did return their form will forgive the slow response but it is taking time to analyse the data and draw up plans based on the needs which that reveals. Courses will be organised and for those wishing to undertake recording on their local reserve the necessary contacts will be made - just give us a little more time!
The Records Centre itself was set up, in a far sighted move, by Worcester City Council originally with the help of the Manpower Services Commission. Since then, through all its various moves, it has remained under the City Council's Arts, Museums and Archaeology Sub-committee. Now that it has arrived at Lower Smite Farm we felt we could not make sweeping changes and commit significant resources without first getting the agreement of Worcester City Council to the Trust taking over long term management. Colin Raven and I were given opportunity to present our proposals to the Sub-committee and I am glad to say that we received their enthusiastic support. We will, of course, be keeping them fully briefed and involved in the developments which we can now undertake.
The first major development is computerisation to make the records more easily accessible and to provide the means for analysis and mapping. The Trust has purchased a number of copies of the "Recorder" software and our computer group is working on implementation. There is a lot of work to be done before we begin the serious business of entering the existing records but a good start has been made. We will up date you at the May recorders meeting.
A successful records centre depends heavily on good working relationships between those who submit records and those who may wish to use them. Recorders have copyright and intellectual property rights in respect of the records they submit and quite rightly would not wish to see these rights infringed by inappropriate publication of their work or by unethical use by users of the service. It is essential therefore that the ground rules for running the centre and the management structure are agreed and accepted by all those involved. The first part of the recorders meeting in May is, therefore, devoted to a discussion of these issues which we hope will lead to the formation of a management group composed of users and recorders. More details will be given nearer the time.
Finally, Harry Green and I were able to visit the natural history collections at the Worcester City Museum with the Curator, Garston Phillips. The amount of material there is frankly mind numbing as one views case after case of butterflies, moths, hymenoptera, herbarium specimens etc. often with the names of the great Worcestershire naturalists attached. We hope to make far more use of these collections, by agreement with Mr. Phillips, since they have huge potential for giving base-line data about the county and in helping the more advanced recorders to develop their identification skills. At the same time the attention of more expert people would help the museum in the cataloguing and maintenance of the collections. Development of such partnerships between all concerned with the Worcestershire's wildlife can be nothing but beneficial.
A year ago I felt immensely optimistic about the future of recording in the county and, despite the failure of the Millennium bid, I feel no less optimistic now. We have made a great start and provided we maintain the effort the benefits for the conservation of wildlife in Worcestershire will be commensurately great. We recognised that the national commitment to biodiversity is the most important step forward in conservation since the Wildlife and Countryside Act. That remains true and knowledge of the diversity of wildlife in our area is the key to successful implementation.
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