Outdoor enthusiasts are being urged to become wildlife detectives in a push to help organisations record plants and animals in Scotland.
Scottish Natural Heritage made the call to countryside lovers to kick off the European Year of Volunteering.
Three-quarters of organisations in a recent survey said they needed more volunteers to record wildlife. Remote areas were particularly poorly served.
National bodies such as the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, British Trust for Ornithology, the Bat Conservation Trust, British Dragonfly Society and Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels all need more volunteer recorders.
Peter Rawcliffe, SNH’s head of people and places, said: “Volunteers play a crucial part in conserving Scotland’s wildlife. For example, we need to know if the number of certain birds, animals or insects is dropping, so we can take quick measures to protect them. Volunteer surveyors play a big role in getting this information.
“If you love nature, surveying is a great hobby. Most organisations need help throughout the country, but if you live in a remote spot, all the better – surveys need to cover all of Scotland, and many organisations have trouble finding volunteers to cover remote areas.”
The British Trust for Conservation Volunteers and other organisations offer training in surveying and recording wildlife, much of which is free to volunteers.
BTCV Scotland has been involved in biological recording projects for a number of years now. The charity delivers a range of training workshops, many of them free, which supports local community bio-recorders, allowing them to develop essentials skills and the confidence to become established recorders.
As well as these workshops, BTCV is planning a number of BioBlitz events, and says it will make 2011 the year that every one of the 10,000 volunteers it engages with has the opportunity to gain experience of wildlife surveying.
John McFarlane, BTCV Scotland’s environment development officer said: “Once people get the recording bug, they’re often hooked for life.
“But the journey of an established and confident recorder can be long and often arduous, requiring a lot of support, training and mentoring from key conservation organisations such as BTCV. We’re aiming to provide continuing support and more opportunities for individuals and communities throughout Scotland to try out wildlife recording and develop a wide range of skills that they will enjoy putting into practice.
“Using the skills and infectious enthusiasm of our natural talent and natural communities apprentices, we will inspire and support people from all walks of life who want to begin their recording journey.”
These two schemes provide 12- to 18-month apprenticeships to develop taxonomic and habitat specialism and environmental community engagement skills. The BCTV website has more information and the SNH site has further details.