Wednesday, 14 March 2018

BSBI Irish Spring Conference: updates

Spring Conference 2017, Glasnevin
Image: R. Hodd
A couple of updates to the programme for this year's mouth-watering programme for the BSBI Irish Spring Conference, to be held in Dublin on Saturday 24th March at the National Botanic Garden, Glasnevin.

First of all, the themed walk around the Botanic Garden will be led by none other than Director Matthew Jebb himself, a botanist so eminent that he has his own Wikipedia webpage.

Second, another flash talk has been added to the programme - this one is about the National Plant Monitoring Scheme in Ireland and it will be given by Pauline Campbell.

Viola lactea
Image: M. Porter
And an update to the info we gave you about the BSBI Viola Handbook. You'll remember that the Spring Conference has a bit of a Viola theme, with a talk and a workshop by Mike Porter, lead author on the Viola Handbook. 

We're delighted that Summerfield Books, BSBI's book-seller, will be offering delegates to the conference a chance to buy a copy of the Handbook at the special discount price of £13.43/ 16.39 euros, which will include postage and packaging (you'd normally pay RRP £14.99 + £1.99 P&P!). Conference organiser Maria Long will let all delegates know how they can take advantage of this special offer - many thanks to Summerfield Books for their support!

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

BSBI Summer Meeting: bookings open

Bookings have opened for the BSBI Summer Meeting which this year is being held on the Isle of Man and runs from the 16th to the 23rd of July. 

It's a joint meeting with the British Bryological Society and there will be lots of bryologists attending as well as botanists at all skill levels, so you are really getting two meetings for the price of one! 

As Organiser Jon Shanklin points out in his flyer about the meeting, "the amazing thing about the Isle of Man is that it has a great variety of habitats in a small area". These range from reservoirs to saltmarsh, woodland to coastal heathland. Uncommon plants that you might expect to see include Whorl Grass, Dodder, Royal Fern and Isle of Man Cabbage.  

Accommodation is at King William's College, an independent boarding school on the island - details of the accommodation package and the daytrips planned are all available on Jonathan's flyer on the Summer Meeting webpage.

This meeting is the perfect opportunity to pick up some moss identification skills as well as catching up with fellow botanists so please head over to the webpage and check out what's on offer! The page also has links to several blogposts from previous years' Summer Meetings so you can get a flavour of what goes on at a Summer Meeting and decide whether it appeals to you.

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

BSBI Irish Spring Conference: bookings now open

Maria with Lynda Weekes (rush ID
workshop leader),
2017 Irish BSBI Conference
Image: Fiona O'Neill
The Irish BSBI Conference has now become an annual event, taking place in March or April each year in the National BotanicGardens, Glasnevin

It is always a great event, with lots of smiling faces, eager to meet up with friends, old and new, and to get ready and raring to go for the new recording season!

Irish Officer Maria Long said “I just love the Irish BSBI Conference each year. Yes, it’s a lot of work, and there are often last-minute hurdles to negotiate, but every year it has been fun, informative and a joy to organise. 

"I get a real buzz out of seeing all the keen faces, some familiar, some new, but all enjoying the presentations, workshops and events. 

"We are very lucky too to have great support from both the National Botanic Gardens and Teagasc. So it’s a real team effort. 

"This year’s talks and workshops look great – so I really can’t wait for the day!

John Conaghan, Rory Hodd & Jo Denyer
enjoy a walk in the beautiful
National Botanic Gardens, Dublin
Image courtesy of J. Denyer
"You’ll find more info on the Irish Conference webpage and I’d advise you to download the programme and booking form right away and get your place. Join in the action by using #IrishBSBIConference, and follow the action on Facebook (@IrishSectionBSBI) and Twitter (@murlong77, @BSBIbotany). After the conference, talks and photos will be available on the Irish Conference webpage

A few highlights for you to look out for: Mike Porter, author of the BSBI Viola Handbook, is offering a talk and and an ID workshop on violets; Jessica Hamilton will be talking about botany in Kerry; Clare Heardman will be talking about Ellen Hutchins, Ireland's first female botanist; Rory Hodd will be giving a flash talk on Killarney Fern... and there's lots lots more so do check out that programme in full!

Monday, 26 February 2018

Botany keeps you young!

Eric on the summit of Clougha Pike
Image: Emma Greenwood
I've been reminded a couple of times in the past few weeks that even when botanists get a little older, they don't seem to slow down very much in pursuit of an interesting plant or a decent view. Could it be that botany keeps us all young? Take a look at the evidence below and see what you think...

First of all, to celebrate his 80th birthday, Emeritus Recorder for West Lancashire (VC60) Eric Greenwood, who has been a BSBI member since 1963, climbed one of England's finest hills: Clougha Pike in Lancashire. On a cold February day the mist cleared just in time to give extensive views over the Lancashire plain and Morecambe Bay.

The photograph (above right), taken by his daughter, shows Eric, author of the Flora of North Lancashire (2012) surveying his domain from the summit of Clougha Pike. This follows his illustrious predecessor, Albert Wilson, co-author of the Flora of West Lancashire (1907) who was photographed on the summit of nearby Ingleborough on his 80th birthday in 1942.

Margaret and Queenie on Cronkley Fell
Image: Tricia Snaith
Secondly, we have the redoutable Margaret Bradshaw MBE who has been a BSBI member since 1951. I was chatting to her friend Tricia Snaith about botany in Teesdale and of course Margaret's name came up - she was awarded MBE in recognition of her work to help conserve the flora of Teesdale. Margaret gave a talk on this subject at the BSBI Exhibition Meeting last November - click on the link to access the page and you can download Margaret's talk.

Tricia told me that Margaret now uses Queenie, one of Tricia's Dales ponies, to help her get up Cronkley Fell. Queenie was bred to cross this kind of terrain - she previously carried lead over the Pennines, and now she is carrying one of our most precious botanists. Tricia very kindly sent me the photograph on the left of Margaret and Queenie on the way up Cronkley Fell.

We talk a lot in BSBI about the importance of reaching out to the next generation of botanists - but what better role models could we offer them than Eric and Margaret? Let's hope they both enjoy many more years scaling the botanical heights! 

Friday, 23 February 2018

Byron's Gin supporting BSBI's Training programme

Sarah Whild with copies of the
BSBI Code of Conduct and two
bottles of Byron's Gin
Image: L. Marsh
To Shrewsbury earlier this month for the spring meeting of BSBI's Training & Education Committee and one of the items on the agenda was Byron's Gin.

Now before you get the wrong idea, I should point out that this was not an excuse for committee members to get scandalously drunk and neglect their responsibilities. 

The committee (T&E to its friends) takes the job of supporting the training of our next generation of botanists very seriously. 

That's why everyone was delighted when BSBI entered into an agreement with Speyside Distillery, whereby a contribution from the sale of every bottle of Byron's Gin would come to T&E to help support and train our botanists.

So it seemed only fitting that committee members should get a good look at bottles of Byron's Gin, which features the BSBI logo on every bottle, before we got to grips with the agenda.

Luronium natans: a Schedule 8 plant
listed in the BSBI Code of Conduct
Image: S. Whild
First up was a quick review of the most popular downloads from the BSBI website and T&E members were delighted to hear about the success of two leaflets for which they were responsible.

'So You Want to Know Your Plants' is still the most popular BSBI leaflet by far, with over 5,000 downloads in the past 18 months and hard copies available for people to take away from outreach events such as the BSBI Exhibition Meeting, but the new BSBI Code of Conduct, published last November, has already been downloaded 1,443 times. 

On to training courses and we heard a report from Brenda Harold who runs Identiplant, the incredibly successful distance learning course for budding botanists. 

Applications for Identiplant had opened as usual on 1st December 2017 and Brenda reported that the course was fully booked by 3rd January, with students signing up across Britain and Ireland. 

Grass ID Workshop led by Nick Law (FCPR) for
the National Plant Monitoring Scheme
Image courtesy of FCPR
A brief discussion followed with committee members suggesting potential new tutors for the course, or commenting on how many students have come to Identiplant via the National Plant Monitoring Scheme in which BSBI is a partner, and Brenda was congratulated on her ongoing success. 

We moved on to talk about FISCs, the industry standard qualification in botany which is the brainchild of two longstanding T&E members, Sarah Whild and Sue Townsend

Paul Ashton, Head of Biology at
Univ. Edge Hill and Chair of T&E,
samples Byron's Gin. Mark Duffell, botany
tutor and member of BSBI Council, is
on hand with tonic and a lemon!
Image: L. Marsh 
The ensuing discussion covered many 'behind the scenes' issues, from collection of specimens to be identified during the lab test, to draft protocols, to pricing structures, to logos of sponsors such as CIEEM. 

Next up we had reports on the various training grants and plant study grants administered by T&E and on the FSC's Young Darwin Scholarships; we discussed a Big Idea which has to remain under wraps for now (sorry!); and we closed with plans for the next Recorders' Conference - keep an eye on this page for updates.

By this stage we were ready for a wee taste of Byron's Gin before we headed home, all tasked with various action points to be completed before the committee meets again in the autumn. 

Check out the BSBI Training page to find out more about T&E and head over here to find out about Byron's Gin!

Thursday, 22 February 2018

Botanical Snippets for February

Plant ID session with Faith Anstey in 2017
Image courtesy of F. Anstey
Bookings have opened for the BSBI Identifying Wildflower Families session in Aberdeen, run by botanical tutor Faith Anstey. More info here and you can book here.

If you are a fan of herbaria, I think you'll enjoy this interview with Donna Young, herbarium curator at National Museums Liverpool. And if you are a herbarium curator yourself, did you know that you can now self-register for Index Herbariorum, or edit your own entry. More here.

An interesting new paper by Ruth Mitchell et al. called 'Decline in atmospheric sulphur deposition and changes in climate are the major drivers of long-term change in grassland plant communities in Scotland'. You can view the paper here.

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Promoting BSBI across Britain and Ireland

Three cheers for all the BSBI botanists, whether staff, officers or 'ordinary members', who go out promoting the society's work across Britain and Ireland

Earlier this month, Liz Lavery (one of the Perthshire County Recorders) had a stand at the Inner Forth Landscape Initiative's 'From Source to Resource: Making biological records count' event. She was promoting the amazing work of BSBI volunteers recording for Atlas 2020, and also displayed posters about Wild Flower Hour and the recent BSBI publication 'Threatened Plants in Britain and Ireland' alongside copies of the BSBI bookmark and membership leaflet, the BSBI Code of Conduct, the So You Want to Know your Plants leaflet, the Atlas 2020 appeal leaflet, the BSBI Annual Review, copies of BSBI News...

This Saturday, BSBI Irish Officer Maria Long will be attending BallyNature Day in Ballynure Village, Co. Antrim, with a similar display. The event is one of Northern Ireland's biggest nature events with more than 40 stands from wildlife/ conservation/ environmental organisations. Check out the flyer here and on the left. 

And on Sunday, Maria, several BSBI County Recorders and members of the Ulster BSBI Botany Group will be heading to Antrim Loughshore Park for a session called 'Everything you wanted to know about BSBI botanical recording but were afraid to ask!' Email Maria if you'd like to know more.

If you know of any similar outreach events happening your area, and you'd like to attend and promote BSBI, we have a range of posters and leaflets we can send you for your stand, some to give away and some just for display. Just drop us a line at to discuss your requirements. Let's spread the word about how much fun it is being part of the BSBI botanical community!