GBRC dataset and record audit

Covid-19 highlights importance of audit

2020 has been an odd year, but the disruption has highlighted new ways to modernise our service. For the remainder of 2020 our top priority at the Guernsey Biological Records Centre (GBRC) is to complete a wildlife dataset audit and verify outstanding data.

20th October 2020

The Records Centre has been collating, managing and reporting data in an official capacity since 2003 but has records going back to the 1800s!

The GBRC developed organically from the passion and expertise of Dr Charles David. As technology and funding allowed, the Records Centre grew and was instrumental in the creation of sister organisations in Jersey and Alderney.


During Covid-19 the Records Centre Manager was stuck in New Zealand for nearly 5 months. This disruption to services revealed we need new systems to work effectively on a remote basis. Plus, as the Records Centre has been operational for an incredible 17 years it is a great time to review our procedures and the data we manage. Not only will this allow us to be more efficient, it will help us make our data more accessible and put it to good use, but will also ID what species are under-reported so we can prioritise what the surveying we do in the future.

This ties nicely into the States of Guernsey Strategy for Nature:

Objective 8: Share and use information effectively.
Strategy For Nature
States of Guernsey

The Strategy for Nature aims to drive the long-term management of nature in Guernsey brings together all the different aspects of the environment; education, monitoring, protection, policy and planning. However before any of the projects in the Strategy for Nature can begin we need to know what environmental data we already hold.

“There is a quote by business leader Peter Drucker, who famously said, “You can’t manage what you don’t measure.” Although this maxim is generally applied to business, its application is particularly relevant to managing our natural assets, environmental science and data management.

If we don’t know what we have measured then we can’t manage it either, so the Records Centre is undertaking a data audit of all the datasets and records we hold. This audit will allow us to say what we categorically do and do not know about Guernsey’s wildlife and natural environment. It will identify what sections of wildlife we have good quantitative data on.

This audit will identify data gaps - areas where species and habitats are under reported or surveyed or simply missing. By identifying both the good and the missing data we can plan and prioritise what we survey in the future, plus work with new Citizen Science Projects, in conjunction with schools, businesses and conservation charities.

Good data is key to our education and understanding of our living environment. In fact, robust data is essential when planning for future land use and development to ensure we take account of, sustainably manage and conserve our island’s terrestrial & marine environment.”

Elizabeth Sweet
GBRC Manager

What exactly are we doing?

This audit will focus on the following types of dataset:

  1. ad-hoc, or casual, for example a one off record of a common species, like a rabbit, vole, etc.
  2. citizen science data created by the public as part of projects like the Pollinator Project
  3. long term monitoring survey records for population status, like the annual ant nest surveying
  4. periodic quantitative surveys like the 2018 Habitat Survey, undertaken every decade
  5. scientific survey for research that captures a snapshot in time, like the 2020 Guernsey Hedgehog Project

These different data types are all important and have different uses, for example long term monitoring gives us information on change over time, whereas ad-hoc records are very helpful in identifying immediate change or unusual events, like a new migrating species.

Identifying the type of data we hold will help provide the Strategy for Nature team with the information they need to actually roll out and deliver on the tasks set out in the Strategy. To ensure the Strategy’s implementation starts on schedule in the New Year we are committed to completing this audit by the end of 2020. Therefore we are putting most of our effort on achieving this. As a result the Records Centre needs to pull back from the delivery of other services so we ask for your patience at this time.

Even though we have our head down doing our data audit we are continuing to accept local biological records from all sources. If you have any biological records which you would like to submit to help give us a clearer picture of the state of Guernsey’s nature please get in touch.

Just one example of the incredible data GBRC holds. This photograph is of a page from Guernsey Society of Natural Science and Local Research. Ornithological Section: G T Derrick, Recording Secretary, 1892-1910