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Thursday, March 22, 2007

Wildlife Information Services

The Somerset Wildlife Trust aims to set up a Wildlife Information Service.

Whilst waiting to find out how they intend to do so, it may be worth looking around at other Trusts to see what is happening else where and what is available already for Somerset Members.

A visit to five other Wildlife Trust sites showed significant differences in how this subject is handled.

The National Wildlife Trust Organisation uses what I regard as a somewhat cluttered, old fashioned home page which is not very attractive to view and contains a lot of references but no form of information help line. There is the usual contact us facility which I have used in the past and received an answer.You can see their web site by clicking here.

The Wiltshire Wildlife Trust home page is brighter but still a bit cluttered. There is an FAQ feature under the heading of “The Questions you ask us” which covers a lot of typical subjects. There is also a heading, “Use our Expertise”, which looks promising. There is a contact us facility but no offer of a telephone help line. Here is their web site.

The Dorset Wildlife Trust has a brighter home page and uses interesting good photos to lead you to main pages which are encouraging. There is no mention of a telephone help line or information service. Here is their web site.

The Devon Wildlife Trust uses the same or similar format to the National site and as noted above is in my view a bit dull and uninviting. If you have a question you need to go to “Other Services” then find a sub heading saying “Wildlife Advice Service” and this gives you an FAQ which covers many topics. There is also a link to “Devon Wildlife Consultants” which carries out paid work on ecological surveys etc. However there is no telephone help line and only the usual contact us feature. Here is a link to their web site.

The Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust
To get a view from further a field I looked at this Trust and found a refreshingly bright and inviting home page. Under some attractive photos are link buttons which take you first to an “Advice” page and then to “Wildlife Information” where a friendly welcome is given with the words:

“We can help you to identify plants and animals, find out how to garden for wildlife or answer your general questions about local wildlife and conservation.”
Here is a link to their web page

Of all these Trusts the BBOWT site is my preferred model.

Finally back at the Somerset Wildlife Trust
. The home page is along the lines of the National web site as is the Devon site. It has some good feature such as the map showing all the reserves, the volunteering and education pages are well thought out although putting those areas in a separate box seems a bit off putting. It certainly isn’t as easy as just having a button at the top of the home page. However it suffers as do most of the sites looked at by packing too much onto a page and from the point of view of this report, there is little to say welcome in a friendly way and only the formal contact us box. No telephone help line for questions about wildlife. Not even an FAQ. An example of too much information is given by the Contact Us page. Here apart from the main switchboard number your eye is drawn to Donations, News, Events and also a small box for Staff which to my mind deserves a much more prominent display. Here is their web site.

In conclusion it is clear to me that the SWT is correct to have an intention to establish a Wildlife Information Service. There are other Trusts who already have such a service although not all. Out of 6 looked at, only one, BBOWLT, was considered good in achieving this form of service for its members. There is another test I should apply and that is to actually use the links on each web site to see how it performs. That will have to be another post in a week or so.

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