Practical Ways of Recording Intertidal Organisms

It is very tricky to work out a practical system for recording marine life organisms of the seashore, or for anywhere else for that matter.

It is imperative that method:
1) produces useful records
2) easy and quick to complete (recorders can enter records directly)
3) relatively cheap
4) recorders, and others, can access the records.

These are the criteria that I would judge a system. I don't want to criticise the existing systems or create a unique incompatible system of my own (I do not want to create any system, but to use one already created).

The first problem (and I think that this applies to Recorder 2000) is that although relational databases are the ideal solution, they immediately encounter practical drawbacks like the lack of computer resources. Simply this means that running a database requires a powerful computer, with more resources than the normal recorder has got.

Therefore, it would seem to me, it would be best if recorders (Shorewatch) could
1) Enter records via the Internet (like the Cheshire rECOrder) <>
2) Enter bulk records prepared on a spreadsheet
3) View the records on an Internet database like MERMAID <>

If my computer program understanding is right, in order for (2) to work the Field Names for entering data have to be agreed and compatible with the recipient software. There might be a few other instructions, like not using commas in the records?

Other practical problems include the probable typing mistakes with some of the scientific names (out of date ones may also be entered, and as these names change, how to keep abreast in the recording software?). Also the updating of contact EMail addresses when they change.

The Recorder 2000 and National Biodiversity Network (I am a member of the National Federation of Biological Recording) pages do not seem to provide the answers. Many of the JNCC pages come up with a 404 error.

Has anybody experienced the same problems?  Or can suggest how I can make further progress? (I cannot believe I am unique, and I know I am not because Shorewatch recorders have approached me with the same questions: what is the best way to keep the records for ultimate inclusion into a national database?)

Notice of the title of this message.  I have approached this subject from the position of the field recorder. I could have approached this from a habitats angle, but this can also be resolved without the need of a relationship database held by the recorder, if the database can input spreadsheet records in the agreed fields.


Andy Horton
British Marine Life Study Society
(EMail messages are not monitored by third parties.)

Marine Wildlife of the North-east Atlantic Smart Group (commenced 1 August 2000)
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Greetings dear hearts, especially Andy.

Speaking as a 'computer nerd' as well as a wildlife enthusiast, it is
generally the case that provided the data structure of the databases
involved is known, it should be possible to create a means of interfacing
one with another... so that various individual recorders and local groups
ought to be able to transfer their records across to a common national
database in due course.

Databases can be programmed with sufficient 'intelligence' (using the word
loosely!) to check, e.g., scientific names against a list - but there will
always be errors as it would involve a 'best fit' with the name presented...

To update scientific names when they change, you'd use a global search &
replace program - you usually write this within the framework of the
database you are using to go through the data record by record and amending
each instance of the name you want to change when you encounter it.

You could do the same with, eg. recorder's e-mail addresses when they change
- provided the recorder bothers to tell the database administrator :-)

Hugs and kisses,


Hello Recorders,

Recording using a Spreadsheet (with Field Names to be agreed)

The trial was undertaken using Microsoft Excel although most spreadsheets would work.

Entering the Scientific Name

Now what would help is if the recorder had the list of scientific names incorporated into the spreadsheet somehow. So if (s)he enters say
Psammechinus miliaris, the recorder will only have to enter the first 3 letters and the whole name comes up. Likewise, entering Pomatoschistus, then the recorder will have to careful with specific name with microps, minitus, pictus, all possibilities but probably sp. as these small gobies are rarely identified to species level (see gobies.htm )

Entering the Location

This is not time-consuming if all the entries are the same. The entry will only have to be included once and then copy and pasted into the little boxes in the same column. The whole column can even be entered afterwards. If a database of habitats were included, it would be useful for the recorder to have a list. On MERMAID <> all the sites have names and numbers.

Extra Information

Enthusiastic recorders may want to include an extra column for information for their own records, e.g. sizes, how identified, colours, behaviour etc. again, there will be no problem transferring a record as the column can be deleted (after saving the original). Even the full records could be stored by Shorewatch Biological Recording, accessible by request, or through the web site, filed under the recorder's name and then by date or location. So if a researcher accessed the national record and found the entry was submitted through Shorewatch and the details provided, the researcher can be directed to the other records. Or a system could be devised for this to be done automatically through a web link. This was thought up independently, but the same idea seems to be incorporated into Fishbase <>.
Note, with Fishbase, in addition to the web site information, there is a CD-ROM, which is useful for British researchers that have high telephone charges for accessing the Internet.

A refinement like this could also be incorporated into MERMAID, e.g. the site reference could include a URL for further information (even if it is just a list of further references), and I would expect there are plans for this.

The prevalence data is important for a researcher.

If all this is a bit confusing try opening up Microsoft Excel and see how easy it is to enter straightforward data like biological records.


Andy Horton
British Marine Life Study Society
(EMail messages are not monitored by third parties.)

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