The winners and runners up of the NBN Awards for Wildlife Recording 2020 were announced at an online ceremony on Wednesday 18 November 2020.

These national Awards recognise and celebrate the outstanding contributions adults and young people are making to wildlife recording and data sharing, which is helping to improve our understanding of the UK’s biodiversity.

There are five Award categories:
• NBN Young Person’s Award (open to individuals aged 11-20)
• NBN Newcomer Award (open to individuals 21 years +)
• NBN Award for wildlife recording – Marine (open to individuals 21 years +)
• NBN Award for wildlife recording – Terrestrial (open to individuals 21 years +)
• NBN Group Award (no age restrictions)

The announcement of the NBN Award winners and runners up was recorded and this can be viewed on YouTube or by clicking play below

NBN Young Person’s Award 2020

Xander Johnston, (age 14, from Aviemore, Scotland) is the winner of the NBN Young Person’s Award 2020.

He was one of the Youth Ambassadors involved in the 2019 State of Nature report.  Xander’s enthusiasm for nature is infectious and his presentation skills match those of a seasoned professional nature presenter. 

Xander uses his own YouTube channel to promote the importance of insects as well as educating viewers on ‘how to rewild your garden’ or ‘how to make an insect hotel’.   

Over the past three years, Xander has recorded over 800 hours of volunteering, surveying, and recording for a number of different projects and he has identified many new sites for rare insects. 

Xander Johnston, winner of the NBN Young Person’s Award 2020, says:

“Biological surveying and recording has been such a large part of my life since moving to the Scottish highlands 6 years ago. Specialising in insects, which I believe to be the foundation of the whole ecosystem, I believe that my surveying and recording is my way of contributing towards scientists restoring the natural world.

“It is also really exciting when I manage to find some of the more rare species which I survey for, which most people don’t ever get the opportunity to experience. Finally, to top it all off, being outdoors is not only great for my physical health but also my mental health!”

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Xander Johnston – winner of the NBN Young Person’s Award 2020

The runner up of the NBN Young Person’s Award is 17 year old Reuben Nebbett-Blades (from Garboldisham, Norfolk). 

He has been a very active recorder for a number of years.  Since 2017, Reuben has submitted over 1300 records of almost 700 species into iRecord Flora is Reuben’s speciality, although his records cover an impressively wide range of taxonomic groups with birds, bryophytes, fungi and all major insect groups also well represented.   

Through Twitter and WhatsApp, Reuben has been very active, helping other young naturalists with identification questions and sharing opportunities for wildlife events.  

Reuben has attended a number of events with other young naturalists, including the BTO Bird Camp in 2018 and the FSC Young Darwin Scholarship course in 2019, where he has helped many others, with plant and invertebrate identification. 

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Reuben Nebbett-Blades – runner up of the NBN Young Person’s Award 2020

NBN Newcomer Award 2020

Douglas Boyes, (from Middletown in Wales) is the winner of NBN Newcomer Award 2020.  He became Montgomeryshire’s Vice County Recorder for Butterflies at the young age of 16 and is now studying for a PhD on the impacts of light pollution on moths.  

Douglas has been involved in lepidoptera recording for 12 years and has submitted about 30,000 moth records to the national moth recording scheme. These cover macro and micro moths including leaf mines.   

He was in the first cohort for the FSC Young Darwin Scholars and he has provided support to the programme ever since.   

As part of his undergraduate studies, Douglas studied the moths of birds’ nests. This resulted in several publications, and some new natural history knowledge. This led to him editing the chapter on Tineids in the 3rd edition of “A Field Guide to the Smaller Moths of Great Britain and Ireland”.  

Douglas Boyes, winner of the NBN Newcomer Award 2020, says:
“What excites me most about biological recording is helping to contribute new information. Whether this is discovering new county records, adding to site lists, or making a digital atlas to encourage people to record butterflies in the least visited parts of Montgomeryshire.

“My most memorable recording experiences have been visiting rural 10km squares that have never been sampled before in the run-up to the first Moth Atlas – moth trapping is most fun when you have no idea what species will turn up!”

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Douglas Boyes – winner of the NBN Newcomer Award 2020

The runner-up of the NBN Newcomer Award is Sophie Webster (from Hartburn, Northumberland).  She is Catch My Drift Project Assistant with Northumberland Wildlife Trust, where she has exceeded all targets for community engagement and volunteer recruitment.

Sophie has achieved an astounding amount in a short space of time thanks to her boundless energy and sheer hard work.  For example, when tasked with engaging 100 people, she managed 748 by running 35 different events and various on-site encounters.  

With her team of volunteers and members of the public, Sophie has collected over 1,700 individual records of 438 different species in a 12month period.  

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Sophie Webster – runner up of the NBN Newcomer Award 2020

NBN Award for Wildlife Recording – Marine 2020

Kevin McIlwee, (from Jersey, Channel Islands) is the winner of the NBN Award for Wildlife Recording – Marine 2020.  He 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. Forest 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.”

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Kevin McIlwee – winner of the NBN Award for Wildlife Recording – Marine 2020

The runner-up of the NBN Award for Wildlife Recording – Marine 2020 is Jack Wootton, (from Edinburgh, Scotland).  He has recorded hundreds of eels and Jack’s data are being used to highlight river restoration needs, pollution impacts on the river and marine environments and to try and bring the eel management plans back in to effect and working policy.  

Jack is working on a new project called ‘forgotten fish’ and has developed children’s games, a conference and could not be doing more about highlighting the decline of eels.   He is effectively an ‘eel ambassador’! 

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Jack Wootton – runner up of the NBN Award for Wildlife Recording – Marine 2020

NBN Award for Wildlife Recording – Terrestrial 2020

Yvonne Leonard, (from Mildenhall, Suffolk) is the winner of the NBN Award for Wildlife Recording – Terrestrial 2020.  Her unique contribution has been the regular and sustained recording of rare plants in the Suffolk Brecklands over 30 years, including several critical species which are both rare and difficult to identify.  

Yvonne developed a novel, formal, long-term monitoring system for the Brecks rarities, with systematic recording and long term planning including a rolling ten year survey timetable.  

She is a model of systematic working, covering a large number of sites and species on a rotational basis, producing meticulous records. Yvonne’s commitment and persistence enabled her to secure access to sites on private land that others were not previously given.   

The BSBI database holds over 20,000 records with Yvonne’s name on.  

Yvonne Leonard, winner of the NBN Award for Wildlife Recording – Terrestrial 2020, says:
I have been recording plants since I was a teenager, especially those that were uncommon.  I moved to the Breckland when I was 17 and I soon realised how precious so many of the plants were in this area and how some were only just managing to survive.

“Over the years my husband and I centred every bit of our available time out on the surroundings heaths and on the vast Elveden Estate monitoring these rare species.

“Roadside verges, Churchyards, County Wildlife sites and SSSI’s have all been visited and recordings made.  Conservation plans were made for the sites and I have spent many hours conveying the results of this work to the local community.
“My very special interest and work has centred around Perennial Knawel which is only found in a few places.
Although I am not as agile as I was I still like to get out and show others plants and sites.”

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Yvonne Leonard – winner of the NBN Award for Wildlife Recording – Terrestrial 2020

The runner-up of the NBN Award for Wildlife Recording – Terrestrial is Derek Crawley, (from Ellerton, Shropshire).  He is not only the Co-ordinator of the National Mammal Atlas project for the Mammal Society, but is also founder and chair of the Staffordshire Mammal Group, which is now 20 years old. 

Derek trains new mammal verifiers on the iRecord system so that there is a uniform approach to verification and was the main author of the “Mammals of Staffordshire Atlas” in 2007. 

He has also taken the lead nationally to produce the “Atlas of the Mammals of Great Britain and Northern Ireland” published this year.   

Derek has been recording mammals for over 40 years and has helped to develop the Mammal Society’s free ‘Mammal Mapper’ app.  

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Derek Crawley – runner up of the NBN Awards for Wildlife Recording – Terrestrial 2020

NBN Group Award 2020

The Mammal Society, (covering the whole of the UK) is the winner of the NBN Group Award 2020.  Established in 1954 as a UK-wide charity advocating science-led mammal conservation, the Society now comprises 1,400 members and 36 local mammal groups who carry out recording and regular mammal surveys.   

The Mammal Society nationally leads efforts to collect and share information on mammals, encourages research to learn more about their ecology and distribution, and contributes to the conservation of mammals.       

Since the launch of the “Mammal Mapper” app and its precursor the “Mammal Tracker”, the Mammal Society has increased its number of expert verifiers to process the increased volume of data that it is now receiving. 

The Society’s distribution maps and data were used in the “Guide to Populations and Conservation Status of British Mammals, published in 2018 and were also used in the “State of Nature Report 2019”. 

Professor Fiona Mathews, Chair of the Mammal Society, says:

“This year we published the first IUCN-compliant Regional Red List of Britain’s mammal species: this shows that one quarter of our native mammals are now at risk of extinction. We also analysed the locations of hedgehog road casualties and created, in partnership with PTES, an interactive website highlighting regions where the risk is highest.

“These assessments were based on more than a million biological records. Without them, the assessment would not have been possible. Our members are motivated by their passion for Britain’s mammals and the knowledge that their records are directly contributing to our research, and to the call for action to protect our wildlife.

“In the last 18 months this has been made even easier by the introduction of our new Mammal Mapper App.”

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The Mammal Society – winners of the NBN Group Award 2020

The runner-up of the NBN Group Award is the Manhood Wildlife and Heritage Group (from the Manhood Peninsula, West Sussex).  This volunteer-led group, was set up over 20 years ago to encourage local residents to record the wildlife on the Manhood Peninsula. 

The Manhood Wildlife and Heritage Group (MWHG) has a membership of between 80 – 100 volunteers.  They stepped up their recording activity, when in 2013, a consultant ecologist hired by a developer said that their area was a “wildlife desert with no significant species or areas of interest”.     

Since then, MWHG has submitted so much data – particularly on water voles – that all waterways and ditches in their area are now considered to be water vole habitat and therefore a developer must prove that they are not present – which is a significant policy change. 

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Manhood Wildlife and Heritage Group – runner up of the NBN Group Award 2020

Neil Hodges, Chair of the National Biodiversity Network Trust said:

“In this exceptional year, I am delighted that the NBN Awards for Wildlife Recording give us the opportunity to celebrate the achievements of so many of the UK’s unsung wildlife recording heroes. They are truly deserving of this recognition, as they record wildlife in all weathers and difficult conditions, buoyed up only by their commitment and enthusiasm.

“Their work not only improves our knowledge of this country’s biodiversity, helping to save threatened species and habitats, but as importantly, they also enthuse other people about the wonders of nature and the great outdoors”.

Awards Sponsors 2020

This year we are indebted to seven organisations for their support and sponsorship of the prizes:
1. Opticron
2. Habitat Aid
3. Field Studies Council (FSC)
4. Nature Photographers Ltd
5. William Collins
6. British Wildlife

You can also see who were shortlisted as the 2020 NBN Award Finalists.

John Sawyer NBN Open Data Award 2020

NatureSpot is the winner of the John Sawyer NBN Open Data Award 2020This citizen science charity, established in 2009, is run entirely by volunteers, and helps the public to identify local wildlife.

Their NBN Atlas dataset includes 300,000 records of more than 6,000 species covering most taxon groups. All the records are shared on an Open licence and the majority at a resolution of 100 m or less.

The organisation’s online recording system is part of the iRecord family, and the NBN Atlas dataset is updated regularly using the automated export process. The data collected showcases the wildlife of Leicestershire and Rutland. 

Download photo of David Nicholls of NatureSpot with the John Sawyer NBN Open Data Award 2020.

NatureSpot – winner of the John Sawyer NBN Open Data Award 2020