Tuesday 2 September 2014

BSBI at British Science Festival 2014: working with partners again :-)

Winterbourne Gardens
Image: courtesy of Society of Biology
When the invitation came last spring, for BSBI to participate in this year's British Science Festival, we were delighted! 

This prestigious week of interactive science events, which travels around the country, comes to Birmingham in 2014. It is co-ordinated by the British Science Association, in partnership this year with the University of Birmingham and in association with Birmingham City Council and Birmingham City University and headline sponsor Siemens.

The Festival offers an unrivalled opportunity for the West Midlands to showcase its science and technology credentials to the UK and around the world. And that includes an opportunity for botanists to shout about the work they are doing...

Ian Trueman in the field in the Black Country
Image: courtesy I. Trueman
So, what did BSBI decide to offer? You have probably realised that we like developing partnerships with other organisations with similar aims, so that we can exhibit together at high-profile events like this (just as we collaborate on many of our research projects). It helps us demonstrate how much common ground we have and how much stronger we are working together for botany and conservation. 

So Events Organiser Penny Fletcher of the Society of Biology, longterm BSBI member Sara Oldfield and I put our heads together - Sara is also Secretary General of Botanic Gardens Conservation International. Then we contacted another longterm BSBI member - Prof Ian Trueman from the University of Wolverhampton, co-author of the recent and much-acclaimed Flora of Birmingham and the Black Country. 

Winterbourne House
Image: courtesy of Society of Biology
And between the four of us, we think we have come up with a brilliant day which tells some important stories about botany, whether local, national or global. And should be great fun to boot!

Botanists, I will let Penny, who has put so much hard work into organising this event, announce it. We offer you: 

"A trip to the beautiful Winterbourne House and Botanic Garden, Birmingham on Monday 8th September, from 10am to 4pm, with a guided tour of the Botanic Garden, including glimpses behind-the-scenes; talks from botanical experts from BSBI and BGCI on local and global botanical topics; refreshments; and transport between Birmingham University main campus and the venue. More details here and tickets can be booked online here." 

Those tickets cost just £6 and there are some still available!

About those botanical experts: first Sara and Asimina from BGCI will talk about the role botanic gardens play in global plant conservation and also why they are so very important for human wellbeing. They are both excellent speakers. Then Ian Trueman will touch on plants which are now rare in the countryside but can still be found growing in botanic gardens, and then... he will share a little of his jaw-droppingly extensive knowledge of the flora of the West Midlands and will also show how the work of BSBI botanists underpins nature conservation in the 21st century. 

Ian and fellow botanical recorders in the field
Image: courtesy I. Trueman
First, he will explain how BSBI members across Britain and Ireland survey systematically whole counties and conurbations for their spontaneous floras, and then Ian will focus on some of the remarkable features of the Birmingham and Black Country conurbation in relation to the recently completed 1995-2013 botanical survey. 

These include the survival almost intact of the botany of a huge mediaeval deer park six miles from the centre of Birmingham, fragments of ancient woodland throughout the Black Country, no less than a dozen types of native orchids and unique floras which have developed on waste land after 250 years of industrial history. 

Winterbourne Gardens
Image: courtesy of Society of Biology
Ian will go on to explain how the botanical survey revealed the existence of a plant-defined ecological network embedded in the city. This includes fragments of the ancient countryside together with elements of the post-industrial landscape and is now connected by the ubiquitous canal system of the conurbation.

I hear that Ian has some pretty good plant and habitat images to illustrate his talk with. Typical botanist though, he found it much harder to find many photographs of himself in the field, but did come up with a couple which are reprinted here.

Winterbourne Gardens
Image: courtesy of Society of Biology
Finally, he will explain how, with the award of national Nature Improvement Area (NIA) status, the Wildlife Trust for Birmingham and the Black Country has applied the findings of the botanical survey to forward planning, with the objective of strengthening and reinforcing the existing ecological network whilst supporting the needs of a great industrial and population centre. 

Ian will offer some examples of how local communities are already being helped and funded, thanks to the NIA award, to make new connections in the existing ecological network. 

So, if you want to hear how BSBI botanists are making a difference at local, national and international scale, and also be shown around a hidden gem of a botanic garden - and if you have £6 to spare and can be in Birmingham next Monday 8th September - there are still tickets available for this six-hour event. Here's that link for booking again. And if you decide to go - how about taking some photographs and/or sending in a short report for publication here at News & Views?


  1. Fantastic! I love Winterbourne. I did my undergrad at Birmingham and volunteered as a gardener there in my final year. I remember weeding out a lot of a particular potato species or variety from some of the beds, because previously it had also been an experimental garden where the great potato taxonomist and geneticist Jack Hawkes had done a lot of work. : )

  2. Thanks for commenting, Oli - Winterbourne does sound attractive! Hoping for some nice pix from people who attend :-)


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