Wednesday, 19 October 2016

BSBI Training grants help botanists in 2016: Part One

Chapel Fell
Image: D. Wallace
Earlier this year, more than 20 budding botanists were successful in applying for a BSBI training grant. 

Below we are delighted to share the first of this year's guest blogposts by a grant recipient. Over to Debs Wallace to tell us about the course she was able to do this year thanks to her BSBI training grant:  

"This summer, receiving a BSBI training grant this year enabled me to attend a three day course 'Identifying Grasses' led by Sarah Watson-Jones at Malham Tarn FSC.

Grasses on Chapel Fell
Image: D. Wallace
Some of the participants were studying for the Manchester Metropolitan University MSc or University Certificate course in Biological Recording, others were ecologists and some attended just for the pleasure of learning more about grasses in a stunningly beautiful location. 

Sarah's great knowledge and experience really helped us all to gain confidence in identifying a range of grasses and it was lovely to see many typical limestone habitat species such as Sesleria caerulea (Blue Moor-grass), Koeleria macrantha (Crested Hair-grass) and Trisetum flavescens (Yellow Oat-grass).

Visiting a variety of different habitats enabled us to see over 40 different species in the field. 

Malham Tarn
Image: D. Wallace
Recording and comparing the species in a series of quadrats up the slopes of Chapel Fell allowed us not only to identify the species present but to understand the ecology and changing geology as we gained height (and the views were beautiful too).

Learning about the floral characteristics of several genera of grasses was really useful. 

Auricles of Giant Fescue
Image: D. Wallace
Discovering why an Oat-grass is an Oat-grass, understanding the difference between dimorphic spikelets and dimorphic florets, appreciating the importance of observing the origins of awns, the shapes of lemmas and the lengths of glumes were all really useful in using identification keys. 

Although it was tricky, using microscopes to dissect the florets of Agrostis (Bent) grasses to compare the lengths of paleas really helped in identifying these species, particularly when (as we discovered) characters such as the presence or absence of awns can be variable and make this a difficult group to identify.

At Grass Woods and Bastow Woods we became familiar with field characteristics of many woodland species such as the lovely big purple/red auricles of Schedonorus giganteus (Giant Fescue) and the leaf sheaths of Melica uniflora (Wood Melick) terminating in the characteristic bristle opposite the ligule.

Wood Melick
Image: D. Wallace
Spending our final morning exploring the grasses of the beautiful habitat at Malham Tarn Moss and Fen consolidated our previous learning and introduced us to some of the wetland grasses. 

Surrounded by so many other lovely plants, it was really hard to concentrate our attention solely on the grass species and I have promised myself a return visit to look at the other treasures.

Attending Warrington Plant Group's field meetings (a BSBI affiliated group lead by Gail Quartly-Bishop) has provided opportunities to apply the knowledge gained during this course and I am looking forward to practising some vegetative identification as summer draws to a close.

I also attended my first BSBI Summer Meeting at Blencathra this year and I absolutely loved it and I will be back for more next year. 

Malham Tarn Moss and Fen
Image: D. Wallace
It was a wonderful opportunity to be out in the field with really experienced and knowledgeable botanists and I learnt a great deal from this.

It was also fantastic to be able to contribute to BSBI Atlas 2020 recording and I have been out on my own in my local area carrying out Atlas recording since then".

Many thanks to Debs for telling us how a BSBI Training grant helped her sharpen up her botanical ID skills and get more involved in recording. 

If you are interested in applying for a grant in 2017, you'll need to keep an eye on our Training page. Grants go live on 1st January each year so check the criteria for eligibility and get your application in quickly!