Image by Alison Moore
The National Biodiversity Network Trust recognises and celebrates significant achievement and success in wildlife recording and information sharing in the UK through its national awards scheme. This was established in 2015 in partnership with the Biological Records Centre and the National Forum for Biological Recording. These awards are made annually to individuals, groups of people or to whole organisations that make outstanding contributions to wildlife recording and improving our understanding of the natural world in the UK.
Scotland’s rivers, lochs and seas are special places and bring to mind some of our most cherished wildlife experiences from leaping salmon and playful otters to basking seals and diving seabirds. The 'Nature of Scotland' award recognises outstanding contributions that help nature thrive in Scottish marine and freshwater habitats.
The National Biodiversity Network Open Data Award is made annually to a member of the NBN who makes the greatest contribution to open biodiversity data in the UK. This award commemorates NBN CEO, John Sawyer by recognising and celebrating the outstanding contribution of NBN Data Partners towards achieving the NBN vision of “collecting and sharing biological data openly to educate and inform”. The 2017 Award was given to Seasearch, who provide all their records to the NBN Atlas at capture resolution under a CC-BY licence, making the data available for anyone to use for any purpose.
NBN Awards for Marine and Coastal Wildlife Recording
The awards for wildlife recording are presented annually at the NBN Conference.
Seasearch coordinators have the amazing record of having won the adult marine/coastal category for the past five year (2016-2020 incl.)
2020: Kevin McIlwee (Jersey)
Kevin is an experienced diver and a retired secondary school teacher.
When Kevin first began, in 2011, there were less than 300 species records for Jersey. Since then he has completed 420 reports himself and overseen many more. Kevin’s name can be found attached to over 6000 marine records.
Kevin’s dedication has led to him not only being Chairman of Jersey Marine Conservation but also being a Seasearch Surveyor and Course Tutor – running regular training courses, survey expeditions and public awareness events. Using the Seasearch methodology Kevin and his team are contributing between 50 and 100 survey reports per year, plugging gaps in taxonomic knowledge of Jersey’s sub-tidal marine species.
Kevin McIlwee, winner of the NBN Award for Wildlife Recording – Marine 2020, says:
“Biological recording may sound a bit of nerdish activity but the reality is far from it. The Seasearch course and being taught how to record biological information literally changed my life, giving me a real sense of purpose.
“Collecting data using a high resolution camera and analysing the images, is I think, like opening a mystery present. Forrest Gump said ‘Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you are going to get next’. That is how it is for me. Biological recording is my box of chocolates!
“I have learnt such an immense amount about why the marine environment is so important. As a diver, I record incredible creatures and seaweeds that are critical to the survival of our planet as we know it. Compiling my reports for the NBN Atlas database can take time to complete but I know that the information I have provided so far, has already made a big difference here in Jersey, providing evidence that has secured the protection of key species and more importantly where they live.
“Working with people of all ages but particularly students keen to learn how they can make a difference, is hugely rewarding.”
2019: Dawn Watson (East Anglia)
Dawn has been the regional coordinator for the Seasearch project in East Anglia since 2007. She typically completes 50-60 field survey forms per year and has submitted over 36,000 taxonomic records to the Seasearch dataset which is publicly available on the NBN Atlas under a CC-BY licence.
Dawn Watson, winner of the NBN Award for Wildlife Recording – Marine 2019, says:
“I have been excited about the underwater world since watching Jacques Cousteau with my father on black and white TV in the 1970s and finally took up diving with a local club in 1998. They were proper BSAC divers who were mostly interested in metal wreckage and what could be prised off it – I was much more interested in finding out what all the colourful squiggly things living on it were!
“In 2005 the club was contacted by Seasearch and offered an Observer course which opened up a whole new world to my partner Rob and myself. We were soon travelling the country and going on dives and courses with like-minded people who became long lasting friends.
“Marine recording still feels very much like a frontier – new things can arrive in your local area that nobody has ever described; we have a purple sponge in Norfolk that lives within 100m of the beach that doesn’t even have a scientific name and has never been recorded anywhere else!”
2018: Bryony Chapman (Kent)
Bryony has worked tirelessly for Kent Wildlife Trust for the last 14 years and was responsible for developing and running the Shoresearch and Seasearch programmes in Kent.
Her expertise and enthusiasm for sharing knowledge has inspired a generation of volunteer divers and coastal surveyors, increasing their knowledge and identification skills and leading to the collation of a detailed data set for the Kent Coast.
2017: Paula Lightfoot (NE England)
Paula Lightfoot is a marine scientist currently completing her PhD at the Dove Laboratory, University of Newcastle. She is one of the regional coordinators for Seasearch. Paula has trained several cohorts of divers and ensures that surveys are booked and have been delivered annually since 2012. Her dedication and professionalism have provided data and images that stunned those involved in the management of the Durham coast. The data being collected is building a clear picture of the communities that are thriving and are re-colonising the former despoiled area on the underlying magnesian limestone. Paula ensures that all the records are verified and shared previously via the NBN Gateway (now the Atlas).
“The thing that excites me about biological recording is the element of discovery – finding a species that’s new to me or observing behaviour I haven’t seen before, and I also love being part of a fantastic community of amateur naturalists with whom I can share these discoveries.
“Being able to use and contribute to the NBN Atlas is a huge motivating factor – it is very important to me to see my records in a national context and I love being able to fill gaps by putting new dots on the map!”
2016: Chris Wood (National)
MCS secured Heritage Lottery Funding to launch Seasearch and appoint a National Coordinator in 2003 with the role of promoting and standardising training, and co-ordinating survey work and data management. Chris Wood was the ideal match for the role. Since 2003 Chris tirelessly developed and promoted Seasearch throughout the UK as well as securing the necessary funds to expand and develop the programme. As a result of his dedication and personal passion for marine life and recording, Seasearch has become an established training programme and Chris has personally trained and guided a team of regional Seasearch Co-ordinators and Tutors to deliver training to volunteer divers throughout the UK.
Chris’s leadership of the Seasearch programme since its launch has made a significant contribution to the UK’s marine dataset and thus knowledge of marine life, to increasing the identification and recording skills of hundreds of volunteer divers and to the conservation of the UK’s marine biodiversity. He retired from the post of National Co-ordinator in September 2016, but remains actively involved with Seasearch as a volunteer.
The Nature of Scotland Awards
from the RSPB and NatureScot
The Nature of Scotland Awards is all about celebrating the success of those who work hard to protect and enrich Scotland’s natural environment.
Nature Champions of the Decade
To mark the 10th anniversary of the Nature of Scotland Awards, ten outstanding former winning projects from across Scotland, including Seasearch, have been shortlisted as "Nature Champions of the Decade". The winners will be announced at the awards ceremony on 17th November 2021.