Scientific challenge


DECIDE: Recording nature where it matters

Visit the DECIDE Tool for recorders to identify places with a high priority for making records. It is in active development, so please give feedback via the Tool.

Nature is in long-term decline in the UK, which has detrimental impacts on people and the environment. The UK Government has committed to reverse this trend and Defra’s 25 Year Environment Plan provides a vision for restoration.

To achieve this, we need high-quality, detailed information on biodiversity. Through citizen science, the UK’s community of tens of thousands of volunteer wildlife recorders make irreplaceable, vital contributions to understanding the national state of biodiversity. But there are gaps in recording, at national and at local scales, and we need high-quality, fine-scale information to make good decisions for nature and the benefits that nature gives us. Where can people visit to make records that will be most informative?

The people and organisations who need to use biodiversity information don’t simply need more records - they need better and more accessible information. Data-users, such as planners and policymakers, need biodiversity information to make better decisions, whether for a country, a region or a location. To meet this need, we must move from basing decisions on species records alone to instead using comprehensive models that show how species distribution and habitat quality are linked.

If you are a recorder interested in helping us to design tools to support your recording, or a data user looking for support in the best use of biodiversity information, or just generally interested in hearing more about this project, please sign up to receive occasional emails and find out how you can be involved. 

Project overview

DECIDE: Delivering Enhanced Biodiversity Information with Adaptive Citizen Science and Intelligent Digital Engagements

DECIDE aims to collect these new data to improve biodiversity models for decision-making by putting recorders’ motivations at the heart of the process. Focusing initially on butterflies, moths and grasshoppers, this pioneering project aims to map 1,000 new species at fine-resolution and to improve these models through the records submitted by Recorders. Recorders will be guided where and when to make records in their region, so that their records can optimally improve the species maps - a process called ‘adaptive sampling’.

Ultimately, this information will feed into the development of an intuitive system that provides volunteer Recorders with automated, customised recommendations on when and where to look out for insect species, based on a combination of each person’s particular recording interests and local places where data is most needed.

DECIDE also aims to improve the quality of these biodiversity models making them more useful by Data-users. Combining this species data with large-scale earth observation data such as land use and weather, it will be possible for Data-users to make informed decisions based on near real-time outputs at fine scales (about 100m), for the benefit of nature and people.

Co-design is at the core of the DECIDE project. Users of fine scale species data, from local NGOs to national government will co-create the workflows and outputs to ensure that the data products created are fit for purpose. Meanwhile volunteer naturalists will be working alongside the DECIDE team to create an app that provides real benefits to them, and not just to the data users.


DECIDE is run by a multidisciplinary team covering ecology, data science, computer science, social science, and data communication, with a range of partners.

Twitter: @decidenature

Principal Investigator

  • 2011-present: Ecologist, CEH
  • 2009-2012: NERC Research Fellow
  • 2003-2009: Research Associate, University of Bristol
  • 2002: Research Assistant, University of Leeds
  • 1997-2001: PhD, University of York