Thursday, 23 October 2014

Botanical training event of the year!

If a meteor had hit Shrewsbury's Gateway Centre yesterday afternoon, Britain would have lost the cream of its botanical trainers... fortunately it didn't and reports are filtering in via social media about how useful and enjoyable this Training the Trainers workshop was! 

Those of us who couldn't make it can only weep and rend our garments - at least until the presentations are uploaded to the Training page next week and we can see exactly what we missed. Then we can weep a bit more. 

For now I'm afraid you'll have to make do with these images and many thanks to Peter Gately for taking his camera along - trust a member of BSBI's Training & Education Committee to come prepared! 

If you have attended any botanical training events, or been on a BSBI field meeting, you may want to play 'Spot the Botanist' at this point. I can see at least three members of the Hebridean Recording Team in this pic (on left) with County Recorder Paul Smith, smiling as he does when surrounded by plants and botanists, and (far left) there's Mags and Sally Peacock, the Utricularia Queen

And you can see Sarah Whild (standing), the driving force behind Training the Trainers, presiding over the day's proceedings, and Tim Rich (on right of pic). Tim is a BSBI Referee and author of several BSBI Handbooks, including ones on Hawkweeds, and he was offering a session on difficult plants and "How to fall in love with apomicts". 

You may also spot Chris Metherell, who gave a talk about identifying Euphrasia species & hybrids and - according to Oli Pescott - is throwing out a few teasers in advance of the AEM, where he is due to spill the beans on all things Eyebright, with a talk about work towards the new Euphrasia Handbook, an ID workshop and some big plans in the offing. Here's what Oli and Chris tweeted: 

Inspiring talk from at Training the Trainers meeting. Plans afoot for a Euphrasia 'ID Cadre!'

 Just finished my talk at BSBI training event. Maybe the next Euphrasia referee is in the room!
2 retweets2 favorites

Oli also tweeted about a very enjoyable session by the excellent Ros Bennett (pic on right) about the benefits of genus level lateral keys for training. Ros's masterful Plant Families presentation in 2012 is still mentioned in botanical circles! 

Do keep an eye on the Training page for the presentations from this year's event, and for more info on botany courses in general. 

You can also find out more about training opportunities at this year's AEM, where Sue Townsend and Brenda Harold are offering an exhibit on the IdentiPlant course.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Promoting BSBI Publications at the AEM in November

John Poland, Chair of Pubs
Image: L. Marsh
To London on Wednesday for the twice-yearly meeting of BSBI Publications Committee aka 'Pubs'.

These meetings may not sound earth-shatteringly exciting but they are essential if we are to make sure that BSBI-supported publications continue to serve the needs of BSBI botanists and the wider botanical community.  

And I had ulterior motives at this meeting of Pubs: there is a bit of a publications theme at next month's Annual Exhibition Meeting, so I hoped to firm up a few details about what will be on offer. [It worked - see below!]

Pubs in action: John (Chair) next to Chris Boon (Secretary)
Image: L. Marsh
BSBI's publications history over decades is pretty impressive (just look at our ground-breaking Atlases and best-selling Handbooks, not to mention our journals) and Pubs is keen to maintain that high standard while ensuring value for money. 

With seven BSBI Handbooks at various stages of development, Committee members had to deal with questions about page lay-out, inclusion of maps, bookbindings... We hope that when a new Handbook is published, you will find it not only a great help in identifying difficult plants with confidence, but also robust enough to use in the field and ideally also a pleasure to own. The illustrations should obviously help you see the diagnostic characters and  ID that plant, but it's nice if they're also easy on the eye!

Chris Preston & draft page from
forthcoming Hybrid Flora
Image: L. Marsh 
So, Chris Metherell joined us at Pubs to offer an update on progress towards publication of his forthcoming Euphrasia Handbook - and he has kindly agreed to give a Euphrasia talk at the AEM and also to run one of his famous Euphrasia workshops, using herbarium specimens from the University of Leicester Herbarium to trial the keys for the forthcoming Handbook. 

Mike Porter (also New Journal of Botany's Plant Records Editor) has agreed to offer a poster about progress towards his Viola Handbook, due out next year.

Clive Stace in the Herbarium, University of Leicester
Image: L. Marsh
But there's more to Pubs than Handbooks and we are gearing up for a major new publication: Clive Stace's Hybrid Flora is due for publication next March, and Pubs member Chris Preston offered an update and showed some sample pages. Pubs thinks this new Flora will "revitalise the way members record hybrids". Clive will be giving a talk about the Hybrid Flora at this year's AEM. 

Richard Gornall (New Journal of Botany Editor-in-Chief) was also in the spotlight at Pubs, offering an overview of the first four years of the journal and laying out options for the future. 

Jane Houldsworth at Pubs
Image: L. Marsh
And then the spotlight was trained on the entire committee, when our Head of Operations Jane Houldsworth gave a presentation on BSBI's strategic plan and we looked at how Pubs contributes to the society's aims, acknowledging our strengths and challenging us on any perceived weaknesses. 

Jane is putting all the committees through this process and it was surprisingly enjoyable, with lots of good ideas flying around. 

Pubs members still talking about publications over dinner!
Image: L. Marsh
Pubs Chair John Poland (yes, he's also the John Poland of Vegetative Key fame) had no sooner closed the meeting and led some of us off in search of a bite to eat than I sidled up to him and asked if he would offer his Plant ID Quiz at this year's AEM. 

I'm pleased to report that he said yes! So if you haven't yet booked for the AEM please take a look here - hope to see you in Leicester next month!

Friday, 10 October 2014

Botanists heading back to Ben Nevis

Mountaineers teach botanists and geologists how to climb!
Image: I. Strachan
In August, we reported here on a survey of the North Face of Ben Nevis involving BSBI botanists Ian Strachan and Jim McIntosh. This first stage in an ambitious project to record the wild plants and map the geology of Scotland's highest mountain was filmed by BBC Scotland's Landward programme and you can see the results here on iPlayer (starting about a minute in).

Jim has been in touch again to forward this interim report on the project which you can view here and to tell us about future plans. Jim said "The dates for next year’s survey are 10th-14th August 2015. If you are a climbing (or scrambling) botanist and would like to get involved then mark them in your diary and ask Ian Strachan to keep you posted. Feel free to forward to other climbing botanists who might be interested. (Training can be given.)

"If you are involved in the management of other mountainous sites then this shows what might be possible on your site(s) and what SNH may be prepared to fund".

Number 4 Gully, where Ian found Alpine Saxifrage
Image: I. Strachan
For the rest of us, we can sit in our armchairs and watch the footage above, gasping at some of the precipitous drops the team negotiated, cheering at the tiny patches of vegetation they came across and the rarities they found, and either envying them like mad or being very grateful to be sitting at home in said armchair! 

I daresay people will be talking about this fascinating survey at the forthcoming Scottish Annual Meeting, which - if you didn't know - is THE big event for botanists in Scotland. It's being held on 1st November this year at the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh. Everybody interested in Scottish botany is welcome at the SAM, whether or not you live in Scotland, are a BSBI member or are an experienced botanist. You can find out more and book here.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

BSBI Annual Exhibition Meeting 2014: open for bookings

Botanists at the 2013 AEM
Image: L. Marsh
The leaves are starting to fall so it's time to think about this year's BSBI Annual Exhibition Meeting (AEM), which is being held at the University of Leicester on Saturday 22nd November.

If you are a BSBI member, you will have received a flyer and booking form inside the latest BSBI News but the AEM is open to everyone interested in botany in Britain and Ireland - you don't have to be a BSBI member to come along and enjoy all the exhibits, talks and workshops that we have planned for you!

BSBI Scientific Officer Pete Stroh & aquatics expert
Richard Lansdowne by the Plant ID table
Image: L. Marsh 
We will also have two natural history book stalls at the AEM - both Summerfield Books (new and second-hand books and a range of hand-lenses) and Acanthophyllum Books (secondhand and antiquarian books). There will be our usual Plant ID stand, where you can get help from our experts to ID that plant  and - John Poland willing - we will be able to offer our ever-popular Vegetative Plant ID Quiz. 

Our exhibitors always come up with interesting things - not just posters. University of Reading's 'Testa yourself' quiz was a big hit last year. You had to beat the clock to match the seed to the wildflower. More difficult than it looked, but great fun! 

Wildflower Society and other exhibitors
Image: L. Marsh 
You can find out more about the AEM here, where there is a flyer with further details and a booking form. The form is so you can book for one of our Herbarium tours (which are usually over-subscribed so act quickly if you want a space!), or if you want to offer an exhibit on any aspect of British or Irish botany, or if you want to book the £10 AEM food and drink package that we have put together for you. 

It's also nice to know who is coming to the AEM (looking forward to seeing old friends and meeting new ones each year is a big part of the AEM experience) so as well as our shiny new AEM webpage (thanks Alex!) we also have a shiny new Meetings Gmail address (thanks Tom!) so you can email me and the rest of the AEM Organising Team from Meetings Committee and let us know if you are hoping to join us next month. 

Univ Reading Team & John Poland's ID Quiz
Image: J. Mitchley
We are still finalising all the talks and workshops (Meetings & Communications Committee met a few weeks ago and ironed out some final details) but we can confirm that Prof. Clive Stace has agreed to talk to us about his forthcoming Hybrids Book. I'll post more details of the day's attractions here, as they are confirmed. 

Let's hope this year's AEM is even better than last year's, when 192 of us enjoyed a packed day at the Natural History Museum and we captured the images on this page. See you on 22nd November in Leicester!