Sunday 6 November 2016

BSBI Plant Study Grant helps Josh survey woodland plants

Image: J. Styles
BSBI's Training Team does an amazing job supporting our next generation of botanists. One of the ways they do this is by providing an annual round of Plant Study Grants and Training Grants. 

So we are delighted to invite recipients of such grants to share their stories here on the BSBI's News & Views pages. It's great to hear about what courses people signed up for, or the fieldwork they were able to carry out, as a result of their BSBI grant. Here's Josh's story:  

"Beginning with my wildflower garden at the early age of 12 was when I started to see plants in a totally different light – that these organisms underpin life for the immense diversity of invertebrate and vertebrate pollinators, herbivores, predators and parasites. 

Wild garlic
Image: J. Styles
Plants were amazing and every new one I saw I wanted to know what it was and what role that species played in its ecosystem. 

As this passion grew, I engaged in more voluntary work and began my life as a local wildlife sites surveyor at the age of 17, and at the age of 21 gained a level 5 in my BSBI Field Studies Certificate (FISC). My hope is that from this passion, next year at graduation will come a botany-centric ecologist role somewhere in Britain.

During the second year of my BSc Ecology degree at Edge Hill University, I chose to do my dissertation topic on the ancient woodland indicator species within South Lancashire (vice county 59). 

Bluebell and Stitchwort
Image: J. Styles
All woodland sites, most especially ancient woods, were absolutely spectacular through the survey season between March and August. 

I saw some amazing sites, including a surprising patch of Sanicle Sanicula europaea in one of the ancient woodland sites in Rufford, with other beauties such as the carpets of strongly scented Wild garlic Allium ursinum and Bluebell Hyacinthoides non-scripta

Image: J. Styles
After surveying was complete I used indicator species analysis on species data for all woodland sites and found 19 indicator species which included species such as Moschatel Adoxa moschatellina, Wood-sorrel Oxalis acetosella, Soft shield-fern Polystichum setiferum and Wood millet Milium effusum

You can see the table of indicator species here.

To feasibly do this study, I needed to compare ancient and secondary woodlands across the county which would realistically cost me a lot on travel expenses as I do not own a car. 

Josh giving a presentation on his survey work
Image courtesy of J. Styles
At this point I applied for a plant studies grant from the BSBI for which I was granted £250. 

This gave me a ginormous helping hand in my investigation allowing me to take trains, buses and taxis to appropriate survey sites. 

I also received a big helping hand from the Edge Hill University biology department providing occasional transport to sites.

I feel absolutely privileged to have received support from the BSBI that has enabled me to do a large proportion of my study that I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to do and have seen some absolutely spectacular woodlands, whilst improving my ID skills of vascular and non-vascular plants along the way. 

Soft Shield-fern
Image: J. Styles
I doubt the memories of the myriads of fantastically diverse plants will dissipate anytime soon!"

Great to hear about the fieldwork Josh was able to carry out as a result of his BSBI Plant Study Grant - many thanks to Josh for sharing his story. We've invited him to have an exhibit at the BSBI Exhibition Meeting on 26th November, so if you'd like to come along and hear more, you'll want to book here!

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