Monday 30 September 2013

Which herbarium is Chris in this week? 

Euphrasia scottica.
Image: J. Crellin 
Chris Metherell, currently writing a BSBI handbook on Euphrasia (Eyebrights), has been telling me about all the herbaria he is visiting as part of the research process. 

A fortnight ago, Chris was at the South London Botanical Institute, refinding a type specimen long thought lost, and last week he was back in his local herbarium (HAMUat the Hancock Museum. As Chris says, "having an herbarium nearby means that I've been able to order up loans from all over the shop for the Euphrasia project - Vienna, Prague, Copenhagen, Florence and Paris, not to mention several UK herbaria. Brilliant - the wild flower world comes to your doorstep!"  

While a dried specimen of Euphrasia (right) may not have the obvious charms of the living plant (above), the plant characters essential for ID can be seen clearly on a well-mounted herbarium sheet. A good specimen, dried and stored under optimal conditions, can be a valuable scientific resource centuries after it was picked, if accompanied by the essential details: who collected the plant, where and when.  

Chris happily acknowledges that "writing the Euphrasia handbook would be quite impossible without the help of various curators." And he is full of admiration for the efforts of the solitary curator at the Hancock who has charge of all the collections, not just botany. Chris said "Poor chap's run off his feet!" 

Chris Metherell examines Euphrasia sheets at HAMU.
With John Richards, BSBI referee for Taraxacum, Chris has been trying to encourage volunteering and they are both setting up a working party to integrate two recently acquired herbaria into the collection, one from the University of Newcastle and the other of the late George Swan

If you think you might be able to help out at HAMU, please send me an email and I can pass it on to Chris for you. And the Hancock does host botany courses so maybe some students will also be inspired to use, and go on to volunteer in, the herbarium?

Thursday 26 September 2013

Natives vs aliens II: David Pearman on Countryfile.

David Pearman and a rather large hogweed, northern Turkey
We have a broadcast date of 7pm this Sunday, 29th September, when you can see former BSBI President David Pearman on 'Countryfile' on BBC1. He will be challenging some preconceptions about the behaviour of 'alien invaders and native thugs' in the UK. The programme will be available all next week on iPlayer so you can listen to it again at leisure. And you can see 'Alien Invaders', the discussion paper co-authored by David, here. 

This subject does seem to be "trending" at the moment. A paper by Prof Rob Marrs and colleagues on 'Over-dominance in British woodland ground flora: a potential cause of reduced species-richness?' is to be published in the next (December) print issue of New Journal of Botany.  

Rob peering at some bracken rhizomes.
Their abstract begins "The invasion of native habitats by alien species has received considerable attention. In Britain, however, high levels of dominance by a small number of aggressive native plant species may have an equal, or greater, impact on the richness of native woodlands". Rob looked at five dominant native species - Ivy, Bramble, Nettle, Dog's Mercury and Bracken - and his findings make interesting reading.

Do take a look at the paper, which should be available on-line in the next few weeks: if you are a member, you can head over here, log in and start reading - email Alex if you've forgotten the password. If you're not yet a member, you could pay £233 for an annual institutional subscription to NJB, but I'm sure you'd rather join BSBI (£25) and receive three free copies a year and on-line access whenever you like. Otherwise you may never know what Rob discovered about those 'native thugs'...

What the Irish BSBI members are up to...

Image: M. Long
There are some great photographs of plants and people on the new Facebook page set up by Irish BSBI members, including this one (right) showing one of the Irish botanists and what looks like a pyramidal orchid. 
Image: P. Lenihan

The Irish BSBI Facebook page is an ideal way to keep up-to-date with all things botanical in Ireland, and Irish Officer Maria Long is obviously doing a great job organising field meetings in some stunning locations... 

Attendance figures at their field meetings are pretty impressive, and it's great to hear more about what the Irish botanists are up to. Especially as (apart from some final paperwork) we are now almost the Botanical Society of Britain & Ireland

And don't forget the original BSBI Facebook page - link via the homepage on the website or hereHere's to a blossoming of botanical activity on all our islands!

Wednesday 25 September 2013

Herbaria large and small

Sir Hans Sloane's herbarium sheets at NHM
The herbarium at the Natural History Museum is a wonder to behold. 

It houses the collection of Sir Hans Sloane, the C17th Irish collector.
His 265 volumes of pressed specimens are housed (each in its own temperature- and humidity-controlled cabinet) in a purpose-built special collections room.  

Cabinets housing the 
Sloane volumes
You can see them for yourself, and also see some of the Natural History Museum's other specimens by celebrated collectors, like Darwin himself, if you join one of our behind-the-scenes Herbarium tours at the Annual Exhibition meeting in November. 

If you received your copy of BSBI News today, it contains a flyer about the AEM. Almost 3,000 fellow members received the same flyer as you, so if you want to join a herbarium tour, you'd better get your application in soon - the list fills up rapidly! 

But some herbaria are much more humble. BSBI Administrator Clive Lovatt has a small herbarium at home, housed in a cabinet once owned by a hero of his, J.W. White, author of the Flora of Bristol (1912). 
Clive's modest but much-loved herbarium
Image: C. Lovatt

Clive tells me, "My herbarium is overflowing - I need to buy another cabinet! We've found lots of interesting alien species around Bristol this year: the bronze New Zealand Carex comans self-sown in a paved street a few miles away (new to Somerset) and I've had two Physalis species without so much as going near a sewage works (which is where the last Bristol records were)". 

I expect that Clive has pressed some specimens of these interesting alien species for his herbarium. Just as Sir Hans Sloane, J. W. White and many other botanists have done before him. 

Want to leave a comment and tell me about your herbarium?

Monday 23 September 2013

Natives vs aliens: David Pearman on Countryfile, BBC1.

David Pearman (left) talking to BSBI Projects Officer Bob Ellis
Recorders Conference 2013
Image: L. Farrell
Following his recent broadcast on Radio 4's 'Costing the Earth', David Pearman (New Atlas co-editor and BSBI past President) is to appear on 'Countryfile' on BBC1, talking about the effects of invasive species. 

The programme-makers were interested in "how native plants are spreading, and how this is affecting threatened plant species". They wondered if alien species may "only be making a bad situation worse" and if, in many areas, "the spread of native plants may be more of an issue".

This subject has long been of interest to David, co-editor of BSBI's New Atlas of the British & Irish Flora (2002) which mapped plant distributions in the two countries. David, who is now based in Cornwall, told me, "the 'Countryfile' people came down and filmed me with [presenter] Tom Heap on Monday, on the coast north of Post Isaac in a gorse-filled valley by the sea on a very windy day!" 

David (left) with New Atlas co-editors Chris Preston & Trevor Dines.
Image: L. Marsh
The results are scheduled for broadcast on Sunday, 29th September, but in the meantime, click read 'Alien Invaders', a BSBI discussion paper co-authored by David.

Ian Denholm also anticipated the media's interest in this subject when he chose 'Alien invaders and native thugs' as the theme for his presentation at the launch last May of the State of Nature report, to which BSBI contributed. 

Gunnera tinctoria on Achil Island, western Ireland
Image: M. Sheehy-Skeffington
He showed journalists and conservationists some dramatic images, sent to him by BSBI recorders, of how Gunnera tinctoria is running amok in Ireland and the Hebrides

Ian also expressed his personal view that "more work is needed to establish the threat that natives pose, and that was the proposed project at a recent meeting I attended of BSBI's Records Committee".

Tristan Travels. 

Our Scottish Officer Jim McIntosh wowed botanists at the recent Recorders Conference with a talk about his year spent on Tristan da Cunha. 

But for those of us who couldn't make it to Shrewsbury earlier this month, Jim's Blog 'Tristan Travels' gives a fascinating glimpse into what a botanist might get up to on a remote island thousands of miles away from his native Scotland.

'Tristan Travels' is a dormant Blog, as Jim is now safely back at work at RBGE, but it's a great read nonetheless and I don't suppose Tristan has changed that much since Jim sailed home last year.

Sunday 22 September 2013

BSBI Irish AGM, Killarney, September 2013. 

Baldellia ranunculoides ssp. repens
Image: I. Denholm
Last weekend saw the first Irish AGM to take place since the society decided to move towards its new name, the Botanical Society of Britain & Ireland. 

Ian Denholm said "the name change is essentially to put us on a stronger footing, legally and financially, but it also flags up the important contribution that our Irish members make to the society."

There is a flyer going out any day now inside the new issue of BSBI News - this will tell you everything you ever wanted to know (and more) about the change of governance and improvements to our corporate structure. 
Botanists at Torc Waterfall, Irish AGM 2013
Image: I. Denholm
But I know you want to hear about the Irish meeting and the plants they saw! Ian told me "This year's AGM for the Irish branch of BSBI took place at Knockreer House, set amid woodland near the entrance to Killarney National Park. The day of the AGM coincided with great weather and terrific views of the mountains close to the Killarney lakes and further afield. 

"As well as official business, there were presentations on Irish orchids [by Ian himself], plant diversity hotspots [Aiden Walsh] and upland habitats [Rory Hudd]. The following day was scheduled for visits to field sites close to Killarney. The less clement weather was offset by finding great plants such as the rare sedge hybrid Carex x boenninghausiana (C. paniculata x C. remota)". I pointed out to Ian that his photo (below) is a little underwhelming, but he retorted "This is a pretty cool hybrid with a great name and the sessile spikelets characteristic of C. remota are replaced by semi-paniculate ones!" 

Carex x boenninghausiana near Killarney
Image: I. Denholm
Ok, Ian, let's call it a semi-cool sedge hybrid and drool instead over the more photogenic  Baldellia ranunculoides ssp. repens  which you captured (top of page) "growing on the gravelly shore of Lough Leane, just south of Killarney". 

Check the Distribution database to understand why Ian said that "seeing this rare [according to Stace 3] species was a highlight of the brief but extremely enjoyable field visits held in conjunction with the Irish AGM". 

Ian also sent the image (above left) of the Irish botanists at Torc Waterfall - a beautiful location among the fabulous Killarney Lakes (left), but it's hard to forget horror stories of visiting Victorian botanists who denuded sites like this and drove the Killarney Fern close to local extinction. 

Fortunately, the fashion for such excess has died out and botanists nowadays know to sample with conservation in mind. I'm sure our BSBI botanists headed home bearing only photographs, happy memories and a lingering hangover from possibly the best Guiness in all Ireland.   

Saturday 21 September 2013

BSBI Recorders Conference 2013. 

Polly Spencer-Vellacott, Jim McIntosh and Jane
Houldsworth (l to r), Recorders Conference 2013
Image: L. Farrell
I hear the Recorders Conference, held a fortnight ago, was a great success. I couldn't make it, so missed one of the botanical world's annual highlights - a plague on double bookings! 

So, many thanks to all of you who sent me gossip, news and photographs like this one (right) of BSBI Country Officers Polly (Wales) and Jim (Scotland) catching up with Head of Operations, Jane Houldsworth.  

Irish Officer Maria Long came over too (seen below with Conference speaker Richard Bateman). Hoping to meet up with Maria at the AEM in November. I hear that Richard Bateman (one of our most prolific NJB authors and BSBI's Co-referee - with Ian Denholm - for all UK Orchids apart from Epipactis) held his audience enthralled on Dactylorchids, a subject on which he is both passionate and mind-bogglingly knowledgeable.

Maria Long & Richard Bateman
Shrewsbury 2013
Image: L. Farrell
Grrr, I'm so cross that I missed this conference! Especially when I read the report that Sarah Stille (VCR for Merioneth) has just posted here on her Blog.

It sounds like a really great weekend and I love Sarah's photo of "a gaggle of botanists watching Tim Rich at the river's edge". 
Actually, Sarah, I'm not sure about 'gaggle' as the appropriate collective noun - consider a bunch of BSBI members hunkered down over an interesting plant - a rump of botanists? Better suggestions to please and if we get enough contenders... would a poster at the AEM be just too silly?

You can go straight to Sarah's Blog - and others by BSBI members - by clicking on the links below right. Happy browsing! 

Botanical Blogs and international interest. 

New records for Water bent: Oli P's sacrevert Blog.
Image: O. Pescott
I've put up a list (scroll down column on right to see it) of 13 Blogs set up by BSBI members- each one is totally or partly about botany, but if you know of any others, please send me a link. There's some great stuff on them - from mapping to local group activity, ethnobotany to plants outside these islands, the Blogs show what a BSBI botanist can do with a bit of free software and an opinion or observation to share!   

I see from the pageview stats that this Blog is starting to attract a lot of interest from outside Britain & Ireland. A big welcome to readers from the US, Canada, Russia, China, across Europe and even from Africa and South America! Why not email me at and let me know what's happening botanically where you live? 

Green-winged orchid count at Muston Meadows NNR:
VC55 local group Blog.
Image: N. Crowley
Many BSBI botanists work closely with colleagues in other parts of the world and the society has always welcomed international interest and support. 

It is often said that BSBI has had a huge and lasting influence on the development of biological recording and monitoring projects around the world over the past 60 years, since our first Atlas was published, so it would be great to hear from international readers about botanical projects to which they've contributed and how these compare with what BSBI does.

I think this page (on right - click to enlarge) from our 1962 Atlas of the British Flora shows both how advanced BSBI was for its time, and how much things have moved on since - type in Pulsatilla vulgaris to our Maps Scheme page or the Database to view hectad and tetrad maps and let me know if you agree! 

We do have an overseas subscription rate (currently £27 each year), so you can join us and support our work even if you don't live on these islands. You'll love receiving BSBI News and New Journal of Botany three times each year but, unless you are visiting Britain or Ireland, you might have a bit of a trek to some of our field meetings!

Friday 20 September 2013

The role of museums and collections in biological recording. 

Ian Denholm in Beaumaris admiring... a moth.
Image: L. Marsh
Martin Godfrey has been in touch about Wednesday's plenary session at the Linnean Society, on the role of museums and collections in biological recording, and I see they have just uploaded this page about the day's proceedings. Martin says, "The day seemed to go well, with plenty of enthusiasm from all comers. We ended up agreeing a series of action points, which Paolo Viscardi, from the Horniman Museum, will take the lead on." 

He also adds "Staunch BSBI members should bear in mind that there were lots of entomologists there too!"  Well, even the BSBI President has been photographed taking a keen interest in an invertebrate... with Jane Houldsworth, our Head of Ops, and Arthur Chater (who really should know better!) egging him on. Click on the image to make it bigger and ID that invertebrate :-)

Thursday 19 September 2013

Ian Denholm's on-line Q&A. 

Ian Denholm on Harris 2013
Image: L. Marsh
Yesterday's on-line Q&A on biodiversity decline went very well, with Ian Denholm fielding questions on agri-environment schemes, invasive organisms threatening native species, CAP reform, globalisation and even the impact of the badger cull! But Ian's answer to the very first question, about whether biodiversity decline is, in fact, happening, set the tone. 

He pointed out that "To assess biodiversity decline, we need quantitative data on exactly what changes are occurring. The most recent and comprehensive report is State of Nature, co-ordinated by RSPB." BSBI contributed to this report and offered a presentation at the launch. And for plants, many of the data to which Ian refers are plant records, collected by BSBI members, which now sit in the BSBI database (one of the world's largest biological databases).

Asked about the future biodiversity of the UK, Ian said he was "optimistic that we can arrest many of the declines, given the momentum and public support for conservation. However it isn't feasible to reverse all the decades of intensification and industrialisation that has led to such a widespread transformation of the UK countryside."     

You can see a full transcript of the Q&A here and Ian's fellow panellist Richard Harrington has Blogged about the experience here. Ian has been asked to join Sense about Science's Plant Science Panel, so watch out for future Q&As. 

Tuesday 17 September 2013

Ian Denholm on Harris.
Image: L. Marsh. 

BSBI President in on-line Q&A.

Don't forget that our President, Ian Denholm will be taking part in an on-line Q&A on the impact of biodiversity decline. 

The Q&A has been organised by Sense about Science and takes place tomorrow (Wednesday) 2-3 pm. More info here

The image on the right shows Ian in a species-rich wet meadow in the Outer Hebrides last summer. He was on the look-out for orchids. No surprise there!

Citizen science promoted on Radio 4. 

Just been listening to Lisa Jardine on Radio 4 talking about the rise of citizen science, and interviewing some professional scientists on the subject. Some nice comments about the importance of the data collected by volunteer recorders. 

Although BSBI was not mentioned by name, we have been rather influential in this field - more info here and here. The new Projects page on the website explains what BSBI does with the records collected by our members. 

The Radio 4 programme is called Seven Ages of Science, and is available here on iPlayer until next Tuesday.

Supporting botanical collections IV. 

Dr John Bailey (aka "Professor Knotweed") and LTR Herbarium volunteers
Image: L. Marsh
Martin Godfrey (active BSBI member who sits on our Science & Research Committee) has been in touch to say he is "Delighted that you are giving so much publicity to volunteers and herbaria at the moment." Martin volunteers in the Herbarium at Stoke Museum, so he gets to work with county recorders and his local Wildlife Trust to sort out ID issues.

But he also says "As one who has a 'speaking part' at Wednesday's Linnean Plenary [on the role of museums and collections in biological recording], I feel very strongly that one of the reasons that museum collections in general - and natural history in particular - are under threat is under-use. Wouldn't it be fantastic if we could get more BSBI (and other recording group) members to make more use of the collections?"

Beginner botanists learn how to use the Herbarium
at University of Leicester.
Image: L. Marsh
I couldn't agree more, Martin! One way we have tried to do this in the Herbarium at the University of Leicester is to set up two 'Museum-to-Meadow' projects which link up locally-collected specimens (Primavesi's roses and elm specimens collected by Clive Stace just before Dutch Elm Disease hit VC55 in the 1970s) with local group field meetings to try and refind those populations. 

But we have found that embedding herbarium sessions in our local botany courses (beginner and intermediate) and hosting winter ID sessions and training sessions in the Herbarium have been the most successful ways of encouraging local botanists - at all skill levels - to use their local herbarium as a resource and to consider volunteering.  

Maybe participants in tomorrow's meeting at the Linnean Society will come up with some other ideas we can all try out?

Monday 16 September 2013

Supporting botanical collections III.

Sheets at SLBI, ready for Chris to go through.
Image: C. Metherell.
More people are emailing about how they rely on herbaria. Chris Metherell is writing a BSBI handbook on Eyebrights Euphrasia and tells me that he has been visiting as many relevant herbaria as possible. 

Chris said, "The first chap in the UK to take an interest in the genus Euphrasia was Frederick Townsend, who I feel a particular affinity for, as he came from Bournemouth, my home town. I easily tracked his herbarium down to the South London Botanical Institute (SLBI) and made arrangements to visit. They were unfailingly helpful."  SLBI's herbarium and library are housed in a converted house in Tulse Hill (!) where SLBI hosts talks and training courses, and offers volunteering opportunities for botanists.

Chris continued, "I had checked up on what might be there, and was interested to read, in Peter Yeo's paper revising Euphrasia in the UK (1978) that several of the type specimens for the genus were missing from the Townsend herbarium. Pity, I thought, but there would obviously be other interesting stuff. Anyway, they had got all the Euphrasia sets ready for me. A pile about 4 feet high - excellent! 

Digitising sheets for Herbaria@Home.
Image: C. Metherell. 
"The top set happened to be E. foulaensis so I started there. Almost the first sheet I looked at turned out to be the missing type specimen for E. foulaensis! Yelp of excitement and much interest from the volunteers. It had been designated by Herbert Pugsley in the 1920s [Pugsley also published an earlier revision of Euphrasia in 1930]. I didn't have time to go through the whole Euphrasia collection, but there were lots of other gems. I'm sure no-one has looked at the Euphrasias since Pugsley in the 1920s. Oddly, Peter Yeo obviously never went, as he always wrote notes on specimens he appraised."

As SLBI specimens are now being digitised for Herbaria@Home, Chris can continue working on the Euphrasia records from his home in North Northumberland, where he is a VCR, but he laments, "The only downside is that I don't have the very welcoming SLBI volunteers feeding me coffee and biscuits!" Chris is also a lutenist, so maybe he could compose an ayre on 'Weeping beside sad fountains, for I am without custard creams' in the style of John Dowland?    

How does a botanist "get to work" (part three)

Botanists rowing to work at Malltraeth Marshes.
Image: Barry Wrightson.
The third in an occasional series.

Barry Wrightson, a BSBI member living in Ynys Mon (Anglesey) has sent me this photo showing how he and some fellow botanists travelled to Malltraeth Marsh recently to carry out a Callitriche survey. 

Barry tells me "We have (I think) record numbers of species of the difficult little blighters." 

Good luck with identifying them, Barry. I'm sure you'll be using Tim Rich's excellent Plant Crib and the BSBI handbook on Callitriche spp. aka Water-starworts. And as a BSBI member, you will be able to consult BSBI Referees to help you identify those "little blighters" with confidence!

Sunday 15 September 2013

Supporting botanical collections II. 

Helen Cleal volunteering at NMW.
Image: T. Rich.
Delighted to report that, over the past few days, I have been inundated with emails and photos showing how BSBI members are using, volunteering in and otherwise supporting their local herbaria!  

Several people have been in touch from Wales. Tim Rich sent this photo of one of his herbarium volunteers at NMW National Museum of Wales, which houses more than 250,000 specimens and welcomes volunteer curators

Paul Green (on right) at the Polypodium field meeting.
Image: Ceri Gait 2013. 
Acting Welsh Officer Paul Green uses the NMW herbarium a lot for his work. He told me, "I often check the specimens before I go out to survey a rare Welsh species to see if any extra info on the sheet can help me find the plant." 

Paul added, "I used the Polypodium specimens when I ran a workshop for the BSBI in March at the National Museum Wales." I was sorry I couldn't make it to that workshop, but hear it was very successful. One of the participants took these photographs of the workshop (below) and the follow-up field meeting (on right). 

Details of this year's workshops and training meetings will be up on the Meetings page this winter, but we will have a print-out listing all our 2014 meetings ready for you to take away at the AEM in November.

Polypodium Workshop 2013.
Image: Ceri Gait.

And Sarah Stille, VCR for Merioneth, has sent me her list of forthcoming training and recording meetings in Wales, including a proposed workshop at NMW in autumn 2014. Sarah's excellent Blog has details of what she is up to, or you can contact her (and other VCRs) via the email links on the Local Groups page

Sarah has been a longtime supporter of herbaria in general and BSBI's Herbaria@Home project in particular. She gave a presentation on the subject at the AEM 2010 and, at Meetings Committee the other week, Sarah agreed to offer a poster on H@H at this year's AEM. Please get in touch with me at if you would also like to offer a poster at the AEM on how you use and support your local herbarium.

Wednesday 11 September 2013

Supporting botanical collections. 

University of Leicester Herbarium volunteers
Image: L. Marsh
Sue Townsend (Biodiversity Learning Manager at the Field Studies Council and an active BSBI member who sits on our Meetings & Communications Committee) has been in touch over an issue I feel very strongly about - herbarium/natural history collections and how we use and value them in these cash-straitened times. 
Herbarium sheet exhibited at Birdfair.
Image: R. Benskin
Sue tells me that she is to chair a plenary meeting at the Linnean Society on 18th September entitled: 'The role of museums and collections in biological recording'. The meeting is open to all: you have to register, but it only costs £15 for a full day of talks, and lunch is included in the price. More info here, with a programme listing all the speakers and subjects. Looks like a really interesting mixture, and apparently Tom Humphrey is also offering a poster on Herbaria@Home
Sue said "I have been part of the Taxonomy and Systematics Committee, and a repeated cry was that museums are suffering from lack of curators, and collections are coming under more and more pressure. This is an opportunity to make the case that collections and type specimens play a vital role in recording." 

Yes, Sue, I agree. Geoffrey Hall and I gave a talk to the BSBI AEM last November on this very subject, called 'Herbarium collections under threat: how should BSBI respond nationally and can local BSBI groups help?' You can see the abstract here and the slides here

Every herbarium sheet has a story behind it, as well as being a valuable scientific resource. The sheet in the image (above) shows one such example, with its all-important label (on right) stating where, when and by whom the specimen was found.

LTR herbarium volunteer demonstrates mounting to botany students.
Image: L. Marsh
And those of you who watched the recent video about New Journal of Botany will have heard Richard Gornall explain how much he relies on herbarium volunteers in his role as Curator of the collection  (LTR) at University of Leicester. 

With cutbacks biting, herbarium collections are in a precarious situation, so maybe this is the time for botanists to go that extra mile and actively support local herbaria this autumn. 

Sunday 8 September 2013

BSBI President in online Q&A. 

Ian Denholm and Martin Godfrey at the BSBI AGM 2013
Photo: L. Marsh
Our President, Ian Denholm, is to appear in a live, on-line Q&A on the subject of 'What impact will UK biodiversity decline have?" For one hour on Wednesday, 18th September, starting at 2pm, Ian and other experts on the panel will be available to answer your questions. 

The event is organised by Sense About Science, who define themselves as "a charitable trust that equips people to make sense of scientific and medical claims in public discussion". 

More details here: pages/biodiversity-decline.html and you can submit your questions via Twitter or email

Ian Denholm
Ian is used to helping people make sense of science (he is a Senior Lecturer in Environmental Sciences at the University of Herts.) and his long experience as a research scientist (he spent decades running the Plant and Invertebrate Ecology Unit at Rothamsted Research) will also stand him in good stead. 

Ian can also draw on years of experience out in the field, seeing the impact of biodiversity decline at first hand. The photograph above shows him in typical field botanist's pose - on his knees in a wet field, in the rain, peering at a plant. And enjoying every minute of it!

So do check out the Q&A on the 18th September and maybe submit a question for our new President?