2015 Conference

2015 NFBR and BES Conference:  A Question of Ecology – Answers from Biological Recording

The 2015 NFBR conference held on the 23rd-25th April in Sheffield was a joint event in collaboration with the British Ecological Society’s Macroecology Special Interest Group.  We would like to thank the speakers, chairs, workshop facilitators, software demonstrators, poster exhibitors and all delegates for participating so actively and enthusiastically and making the conference such a great success!

Conference proceedings and presentations will be made available in due course.  A summary of feedback received from conference delegates can be viewed here.


Biodiversity information is crucial to understanding ecological relationships and supporting conservation effort in a changing climate. Use of volunteer-collected biological records by the professional scientific community is widely encouraged and celebrated, but much interpretation of biological records is carried out by amateur naturalists, who are uncovering new ecological knowledge from their own records and sharing that knowledge with others.

Biological recording is not just about producing checklists, dot maps or providing ‘big data’ for others to analyse; it is a way of engaging with the natural world which both raises questions and provides answers to them.

A Question of Ecology celebrated achievements, highlighted opportunities and sought to overcome obstacles regarding the use of biological records to answer ecological questions.


The conference aimed to:

  1. Raise awareness of how biological records can be interpreted to answer ecological questions and lead to conservation action at a site-specific, local, national and international scale.
  2. Empower volunteer recorders and their organisations to get more out of their biological records by highlighting effective approaches to data collection and analysis.
  3. Foster collaboration between the professional research community and volunteer recording community through examples of good practice.
  4. Discuss barriers to the use of biological records for research and start a dialogue between the biological recording and research communities about how to overcome those barriers

Programme and Speakers

Please click here to download the conference programme, click here to download the book of abstracts or click here to download presentations.

The conference programme comprised ‘quickfire talks’ (5 minutes) and longer talks (20-30 minutes) to set the scene, raise key issues, and showcase examples of good practice to guide future action and policy development. It highlighted original work at all scales and levels, from global to local, where knowledge of species and systems is being advanced through accurate observation and recording. The Keynote Address was given by Professor Kate Jones, University College London and Bat Conservation Trust, on the topic of Technology for Nature?

On Thursday morning there was a free training / demonstration workshop on software and tools for capturing and interpreting biological records, including rNBN, SPARTA (Species Presence/Absence R Trends Analyses), Scratchpads, Indicia and QGIS. On Thursday afternoon there was a workshop to discuss specific challenges and opportunities regarding the collection and interpretation of biological records for ecological research.

Posters were displayed throughout the conference.

Field Meeting

There was a very enjoyable and well-attended field meeting on Saturday 25th April to Thorne and Hatfield Moors, kindly organised by Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and Natural England. Thorne and Hatfield Moors form the core of the Humberhead Peatlands NNR, the largest lowland raised mire system in the UK and the beating heart of the Nature Improvement Area.

A location with a significant invertebrate assemblage and a range of other flora and fauna, it is an excellent example of how science can influence conservation action and delivery. Records from the field trip were entered into iRecord and will be shared via the NBN Gateway.

We would also like to welcome all the new members who joined NFBR in the run-up to the conference or during the conference - thank you for your support!

Individual membership of NFBR costs just £10, or just £6 for students. Click here to join NFBR.