Monday 28 November 2016

BSBI Annual Exhibition Meeting 2016: a roaring success!

Most colourful exhibit at the AEM?
Entries from the BSBI Photographic Competition
Image: R. Clark
On Saturday, almost 200 botanists came together for BSBI's Annual Exhibition Meeting, held this year at CEH Wallingford.

They came from as far afield as Dundee and the Channel Isles, from Surrey and from Armagh, and - oh dear, how do we say this without sounding unbearably smug - the day was a resounding success! 

First, there were 38 botanical exhibits to enjoy, covering many aspects of botany on these islands and featuring herbarium sheets, photographs and items from the BRC archive alongside research posters, news about BSBI projects, training opportunities, activities and publications, and demos of mobile apps for recorders. 

Kate Petty's exhibit on Sea Rocket
Image: K. Petty
We hope to share as many of these exhibits as possible with you in the coming weeks along with some of the stories behind them. 

The huge selection of photographs submitted to the BSBI Photographic Competition looked fabulous and we got to see some live plants on Brian Laney's rare plant stall and in John Poland's Vegetative Plant ID Quiz.  

There was plenty of space for us to mill around the exhibits and lots of comfortable seating areas scattered around, so we could sit and natter about planty things.

Many thanks to Denise and her team at CEH Wallingford (Doug, Jimmy, James, Jarred and Luso) for accommodating 195 botanists and making sure everything was just right for us!  

A full Lecture Theatre as talks get underway
Image: L. Marsh 
Then there were our nine speakers, who informed, entertained and inspired, and whose presentations we will also be uploading here. 

During the morning session 'From Field to Map', we heard from Field Meetings Secretary Jon Shanklin about the plants recorded by BSBI botanists on our field meetings, from BSBI Welsh Officer Polly Spencer-Vellacott on Rare Plant Registers and from President-elect Chris Metherell on BSBI Handbooks which help us record more effectively. 

Jo Judge browsing exhibits
from BSBI's Training Team
Image: S. Townsend
We also enjoyed a talk by Jo Judge, CEO of the National Biodiversity Network, about exciting changes in the pipeline for NBN. Then it was the BSBI's AGM and then of course our thoughts turned to lunch... 

It's a funny thing that although botanists will tolerate a long day in the field with only water and a soggy sandwich, put two BSBI members in a room without a nice cup of tea and a cake and just wait for us to start grumbling!  

So three cheers for Phil and his team who kept us so well fed and watered throughout the day. The hot lunch options were very welcome on a wintry afternoon and the scones with jam and clotted cream have already received two honourable mentions on the feedback forms (along with the usual comments that there was too much on offer and people weren't able to do everything - but we make no apology for this abundance of riches!)

BSBI publications were in the spotlight again after lunch with the award of the Engler Silver Medal to the authors of the Hybrid Flora of the British Isles

Sandy Knapp, David Pearman & Chris Preston
Image: L. Marsh
Sandy Knapp presented the award on behalf of IAPT to David Pearman and Chris Preston, and then Chris launched the afternoon session 'Putting Plants on the Map' with a talk about the early days of BSBI and BRC/CEH working together

Then Lucy Ridding (CEH) told us about using BSBI data to monitor vegetation changes, Paul Smith talked about surprising plant records and the BSBI botanists who recorded them and Markus Wagner showed us CEH's Rare Arable Flowers App

The caption on the slide says it all!
Image: R. Clark
A final chance to look at the exhibits, visit Summerfield Books' pop-up bookshop or catch up with people over coffee and cake, and then back into the lecture theatre where David Roy pulled together the many threads of BSBI and BRC/CEH working together over decades and into the future. 

And then - boo hoo! - it was all over for another year apart from thank yous from BSBI President John Faulkner and the traditional post-AEM social at the local pub.  

A great day catching up with old friends, meeting new ones and finding out what fellow botanists are up to. 

Huge thanks to David Roy, our keynote speaker and also our host: he and his staff did a fabulous job looking after us all day! Equally huge thanks to organisers Jodey Peyton (Ecologist at CEH) and Kylie Jones (Ecologist at Anglian Water) from BSBI's Meetings & Communications Committee - they both put in many volunteer hours to make sure the 2016 AEM was a resounding success.

Ryan and George with their AEM 2016 exhibits
Image: Sarah Whild
And finally, two nice things to report: 

1. More young people attending and exhibiting than at any previous AEM, with a herbarium display by Glenda and her students at Univ Bath, Edge Hill undergrad Josh Styles on ancient woodland indicators (work supported by a BSBI Training Grant), research posters by Lucy Ridding and Charlie Outhwaite at BRC/CEH, George Garnett's poster about the Young Darwin Scholarship and Ryan Clark's 'A Focus on Nature' stand.   

2. During the AGM, it was announced that BSBI membership is on the rise, bucking the national trend for natural history societies. It may be only a 1% rise so far but you know what they say about little acorns... so here's the link if you want to join our growing botanical community!  

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