Firstly, a bit about Gilbert White. As the NBN are saying, Gilbert White has become synonymous with biological recording. Having lived in the 1700s, he’s far from a modern-day recorder. He lived in the parish of Selborne, near the Sussex-Hampshire border and recorded all of the natural history in the parish in his most well-known publication: The Natural History of Selborne. A book review will appear in the Book Reviews page on this site as soon as possible.
So, a few months ago, the NBN launched a new awards scheme to help celebrate biological recording in the UK. There are four main awards:
- The Gilbert White youth award, for terrestrial and freshwater recorders under the age of 18
- The Gilbert White adult award, for terrestrial and freshwater adult recorders
- The David Robertson youth award, for coastal and marine recorders under the age of 18. The marine and coastal awards are named after David Robertson, who died in 1896 but founded the University Marine Biological Station at Millport which now goes by the name ‘Millport Field Centre’.
- The David Robertson adult award, for adult coast and marine recorders.
Tony Davis, my ringing trainer and an inspirational pan-species lister, nominated me for the Gilbert White youth award. However, I had no idea about it, it was done completely behind my back! I only found out when I received an email from the NBN with a subject line reading ‘Gilbert White youth award winner’! I was invited to the awards ceremony, which took place last Thursday evening (19/11/15).
The awards were presented at Merchant Taylor’s Hall in York. Just before the awards were announced I was able to chat to a few people, including two members of the Sussex Biodiversity Records Centre, Bob Foremand and Clare Blencowe. I was already in a good mood: Bob had told me that the only record he could find for a Closterium species I had recorded was in Romania! We’ll have to wait and see, but it looks like it might be my first ever first for Britain!
My award was the first to be announced and it had a long introduction. The Earl of Selborne was presenting my award and he was quoting from my nomination. Several times I heard him say ‘the winner is…’, at which point I would make a sudden movement in the direction of the front of the hall, but he actually only went on to say ‘the winner is a…’. It was a nerve-wracking experience! Finally the Earl of Selborne said ‘The winner is…. James McCulloch’ and I was kind of relieved!
It was very interesting to see who the other winners were:
- The winners of the Gilbert White adult award were a husband and wife partnership, Ian and the late Pat Evans.
- The winner of the David Robertson youth award was Callum Ullman-Smith, a 13 year old who has conducted impressive research on Palmate Newt populations in saline waters near his home in Scotland.
- The winner of the David Robertson adult award was David Fenwick, a great photographer as well as a recorder.
There were also two other awards:
- The Open Data award, which went to the Mammal Society.
- The Special Award, which was another posthumous award and went to Nigel Jee.
Congratulations to all the winners!
After a bit of site-seeing around York (mainly lichen hunting for me!) we had to leave. My first plant tick for a while was a worthy end to the trip: Mexican Fleabane (Erigeron karvinskianus) on the edge of the car park near the city station!
Unfortunately, John Sawyer, who came up with the idea to create these awards, sadly died of a heart attack recently. He was the CEO of the NBN. He was very young and will be missed by all who knew him and many who didn’t. These awards are a fitting tribute to him.