Over the years I have put in a lot of effort into the Nature of Dorset website and I sometimes ask myself why I bother! It is not that I do not think it serves a useful purpose, far from it. With 72,000 visitors in 2017 it has a growing audience that obviously finds the site useful. Nonetheless “who benefits from the Nature of Dorset?” is a valid question.
Reflecting on this question, as I do from time to time, I find the answer really comes in three parts:
To start with, I do! It does not earn me any money as there is no membership fee charged to be able to access the information available on the site nor do I clutter it with unwanted adverts. Overall it costs me approaching £500 a year to run but, compared to what some people spend on their hobby, it is not a lot in return for the interest and stimulation I get from doing it. Since I retired from work it has taken over as ‘my job’ and I would be lost without it.
More recently I have added a records and photographs section fed by tweets from local enthusiasts who post sightings and images on Twitter. These records are fully accredited and I derive no financial gain from doing it but it takes the photographs posted to a much wider audience and provides a permanent home for, and puts to good use, tweets that would soon pass out of sight on followers timelines. I like to think those ‘tweeters’ benefit from this too.
The main beneficiaries are, however, those who find the answers to questions they have about nature in Dorset. Not all those 72,000 visitors benefit of course but a third visit more than one page when the are on the site and many more will find the answer on the page they first landed on so it is not an insignificant number. It is impossible to know what questions they are asking but they will include simple things like “where is such and such reserve?”, “where can I see such and such species?” and “what on earth was that such and such I saw today?” to more complex questions about habitat and ecology. The site gets a good number of visits from universities, colleges and schools and I get emails from students asking for help with their projects so I know the site is beneficial in the educational sector at least.
When I first started getting interested in wildlife back in the 1970’s I was very fortunate to encounter a number of people who were more than willing to share knowledge and information with me and encourage my blossoming interest. I learned so much from them and if I can, through the Nature of Dorset website, help others develop their knowledge and interest then I will be continuing the legacy of those who taught me.
Why do I bother? Because there is an enormous demand for the kind of information I can publish on the Nature of Dorset website and if I can help with awareness of, and learning about, the natural world, particularly here in Dorset, that is all the reward I need.