What makes a record?

1. What was seen? [species or habitat]

Species and habitats are frequently the focus of recorders.  Species are often recorded casually and there is a great tradition of amateur species recording, often to expert levels.  They may also be recorded as part of systematic study or survey.

Habitats are more likely to be recorded as part of an organised survey and tend to be named according to a defined survey classification system.  See the habitat data pages for more about how the GiGL database includes these.

Species are given a unique two-part scientific name that is internationally recognised and indicates relationship to other species. Many species also have common names, though these vary from place to place and may not be unique.

It is preferable that a record gives the scientific name according to accepted current nomenclature. But GiGL does accept common names too where possible.

Correct identification is important – if you are uncertain then a specialist may be able to help confirm identification. See our links to recording groups to find out more.

Species names

The primary recognised international method for naming species is the binomial system. Each species is attributed a unique two-part scientific name, the first part referring to its group, or ‘genus’, and the second to its species.

Scientific names are normally derived from Latin or Greek and the definition of the name often bears relation to the species’ biology or discovery. Names are italicised when written, and may also refer to the person who described the original named specimen of that species.

Many species have a common name or common names too. These vary historically and from place to place, so though interesting culturally are not reliable as an identification reference.

An example: Arvicola amphibius

Arvicola amphibius belongs to the genus Arvicola. A genus may include just one or several species. Amphibius is the species name , in this case hinting at the semi-aquatic life style of this protected mammal.

The widely accepted common name for Arvicola amphibius is water vole. However it has also been known historically (confusingly) as the water rat, illustrating the problems that can arise by recording non-scientific names. The well loved character Ratty in The Wind In the Willows is a water vole, Arvicola amphibius, rather than a brown rat, Rattus norvegicus.

2. Who ? [Observer’s name]

Who are you? The name of the person(s) who made the observation is necessary. This means that we can contact you to find out more about your record if we need to.

If your record identification has been confirmed by an expert please note this too, referred to as ‘determiner’.

3. When? [the date]

When did you observe the species or habitat?

The full date should be recorded if possible.

Ensure that the dates are clear, take care with spreadsheet formatting of dates. We can add species records made in the past as long as they have all the required information, we even have some records in the database that were recorded by Darwin in the 1800s!

4. Where? [the grid reference]

Where was it?

The more accurate this location information is the better. Ideally a six figure grid reference should be given, to provide a close identification of the location of the record (within 100m2). Guidelines on reading and generating grid references are here.

Other location details can also be accepted, e.g. post code, 1Km grid square, address, site name. When mapped these provide less accurate information about where your sighting was, but may be the most appropriate or best available information in some cases.

Additional information

The above information provides a good basic record. A variety of additional information can also be provided. For habitat data this will follow the survey method and mapping.  For species data this may include a measure of abundance, the location name (useful to confirm the grid reference), sex, life stage, survey method etc.

The type of additional information supplied will vary depending on the aims of the survey. Additional fields, suitable for input to the Recorder system, are given in our standard data entry form, here.