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Tools & Resources > Recording Resources > Online recording toolkit

Online recording resources

Online recording and the ability to incorporate this facility into websites is growing rapidly and in importance. 


Online recording has significant potential to improve the efficiency of biodiversity data flow, to facilitate structured surveillance and monitoring, to increase data mobilisation from the commercial, academic and public sectors and to provide much-needed support to the network of experts who provide verification services, often on a voluntary basis. The benefits of online recording are already widely acknowledged by the biodiversity data management sector, and various online recording systems have been developed by key organisations including several local environmental records centres and national recording schemes. Online recording will only achieve its full potential if these systems can interoperate and are based on a shared set of standards.

The NBN already has a suite of tools, standards and principles which provide a secure and equitable basis for the dissemination and use of biodiversity data. These provide a firm foundation, but are likely to need some extension and development to meet emerging requirements.

There is a need for standards to support interoperability in online recording and data exchange etc., The NBN Trust began coordinating work towards this in 2011 and published an initial working draft of online recording standards in October 2012, following consultation with a selection of online recording system developers.  The draft standards are available for download below, however further work is needed to refine and update this and to promote the standards to the community.

Download the NBN Standards for integrated online recording and verification 
Written in October 2012 by Paula Lightfoot and Steve Wilkinson

What do you want from a biological recording website?

If you are considering your own biological recording website or online recording survey, firstly, you need to think about what you want.

The table below sets out the key questions you are likely to have and the differences between some of the NBN related options available, along with likely costs if you employ a contractor to carry out the work.  More information on each option can be found further on:


Indicia is a toolkit that simplifies the construction of new websites which allow data entry, mapping and reporting of wildlife records. It’s not a finished online survey website – think of Indicia as a kit car as opposed to a manufactured car. You get the wheels, engine and all the important tricky bits ready-made, but you still have to assemble the parts.

To find out more go to the Indicia website or for help in setting up your site go to the NBN forum

You can also download a list of websites, apps and forms that have been created using Indicia. The aim of this list is to give an overview of the diversity of data entry forms that have already been created and are therefore available to clone or adapt for other users, thereby saving development time and costs. 

Indicia training material for developers can be found at the following online link

Don't worry if you are not a web developer as we have tools that enable you to build your site within the website content management system - Drupal.

Instant Indicia

Instant Indicia is the quickest way to build websites using Indicia. Instant Indicia provides Indicia functionality already integrated into a content management system alongside the other tools needed to build online recording websites. You simply select from the list of “features” you want to enable on your website – input forms, reports, maps, verification etc – and Instant Indicia does the rest.

More specifically, Instant Indicia is an extension of the Drupal content management system for building online recording websites. Once installed, the basis of an online recording site can be built simply by selecting from a number of ready-made building blocks and performing a few configuration tasks.

A comprehensive tutorial on the use of Indicia is now available.  Once you are ready to create your own online recording site you can download Instant Indicia by clicking on the link below:

Download Instant Indicia and the tutorial


iRecord is one of the major Indicia implementations.  It has been created to make it easier for wildlife sightings to be collated, checked by experts and made available to support research and decision-making at local and national levels

Go to iRecord

For queries on iRecord and help with setting up recording forms, please use this email address

Training material for iRecord

A set of training material for uers of iRecord is available online here

Setting up a biological recording website leaflet

We have also created a leaflet to help you understand what Indicia, Instant Indicia and iRecord can do for you.

Download the "I want to set up a biological recording website" leaflet.

Indicia flyer

If you want to promote Indicia you can order the flyer to use at your event. Just visit the publications order page , place your order and we'll send them out to you.

Download the Indicia flyer

Indicia chat room

As a support mechanism, an Indicia chat room has been created for people to share ideas, problems and generally chat about Indicia.  You can read more about it on the forum at or visit the chat room direct.  You will need to provide Google, Twitter, Facebook or OpenID login information to access the room.

Who is using Indicia?

In addition to iRecord, the following organisations are already using Indicia for their online recording websites:

Nature Spot

British Dragonfly Society


Riverfly Partnership

Crayfish Recording Scheme

North East Cetacean project

The Mammal Society

Norfolk Biodiversity Information Service

Orthoptera & Allied Insects

Black Squirrel Project

Already using Indicia?

Are you already using Indicia or do you plan to use it in the future?

We would like to gather feedback on your experiences of using Indicia, and highlight individual case studies.  If you would like to participate and have your project highlighted in a forthcoming issue of eNews please do let us know. 

Please email us information on:

  •  your organisation
  •  your project
  •  your comments on how easy or difficult Indicia is to use 

Indicia is an Open Source project funded by the National Biodiversity Network through the Big lottery funded project Open Air Laboratories Project (OPAL) and is managed by NBN and the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology.





Drupal is a content management system that greatly eases the task of managing a website. In particular many of the extensions that already exists for it make it very applicable to hosting biodiversity related sites (such as that for a National Scheme or Local Record Centre) and further extensions are expected to appear over the next year. There is quite a lot of interest in the system at the moment, particularly across the biodiversity community – for example it has been adopted by the highly publicised Encyclopedia of Life. JNCC are in the process of producing a couple of guides on applying Drupal 6 in this way and early drafts of these are available below. For more details on Drupal visit their website

Emerging Drupal bioinformatics group


Within the UK the Natural History Museum have led the development of an implementation of Drupal known as Scratchpads (link). This is particularly aimed at taxonomists but could also potentially be adopted by a national scheme to give an initial web presence with very little cost.

Scratchpad links:

Main Scratchpad Site (includes link to apply for a Scratchpad)

Scratchpad project modules

Scratchpad SVN repository

BMC Bioinformatics paper

Google group setup to share ideas and experience on applying Drupal

Drupal guides:

 The tutorial on Instant Indicia is also an excellent starting point for learning Drupal.

Instant Indicia Tutorial


On-line Tutorial on setting up a species website.

This following web cast is the presentation given by Stuart Ball at the NBN Technical Seminar in November 2009. Stuart shows you how you can build your own recording website using Drupal.

Setting up a species portal using Drupal (1.6 MB)

This PDF shows you how you can quickly set up your own species recording site using the content management system - Drupal. Use this document to support the tutorial above.

Building a Drupal website (1.6 MB)

Guidance document on building a Drupal website for Indicia

iRecord training material

Read more

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