Tuesday 14 February 2017

BSBI Training Grants help botanists in 2016: Part Five

Herb Paris seen on the 'Woodland' module
Image: Vanessa Reeves
Following on from last month's post about the sedge ID course which Pete was able to attend last year thanks to a BSBI Training Grant, this month we feature a report by another budding botanist, Vanessa, who also benefited from a Training Grant. 

This one is a little embarrassing for me because, for the first time, the course discussed is one that I tutor for University of Leicester Botanic Garden. Details of the course are here and the report below is printed verbatim - no money or other sweeteners changed hands! 

Over to Vanessa:

"I’ve had an interest in plants for several years which stemmed from working as a Field Ecologist at an ecological consultancy. 

Pepper-saxifrage seen on
the Summer Meadow module
Image: Vanessa Reeves
"I had learnt most of my plant ID from assisting on Phase 1 surveys; however, before I received the BSBI Training Grant, I couldn’t have recognised what family a specimen was from, or the characteristics which make it the species it is. I had tried using keys before, but always struggled with the difficult terminology.

"I was fortunate enough to receive a grant of £200 from the BSBI, which allowed me to take the ‘Botany for Beginners’ course at The University of Leicester Botanic Garden. 

"The course is made up of 7 modules, and you can choose to do as many as you like within the year. The grant allowed me to take 4 of the 7 modules (although I enjoyed them so much I ended up doing 5!).

Yellow-rattle seen on the
Summer Meadow module
Image: Vanessa Reeves
"These modules were ‘Getting Started with Plant Identification’, ‘Spring Woodland Flowers’, ‘Summer Meadow Flowers’, ‘Plants In and By Water’, and ‘Trees, deciduous and evergreen’. 

"The course was led by tutor Louise Marsh, who is incredibly enthusiastic about botany and made the course thoroughly enjoyable.  
"Each module took place over a weekend. The Saturday was usually spent in the classroom identifying specimens, as well as occasional walks around the Botanic Garden, and on the Sunday we went on a fieldtrip to places which contained some of the species we had seen in the classroom, as well as many more, including some rarities. 

"One important thing Louise taught us about botany field trips is to never leave your lunch in the car – as you will undoubtedly get carried away by spotting new species and rarely make it back in time!" 

Tubular water-dropwort on the
'Plants in & by water' module
Image: Vanessa Reeves
[LM: this tip was passed on to me by none other than Clive Stace, when I asked the great man one day for advice on how to become a successful field botanist - it's the best advice I've ever had!]

"We often worked in pairs or groups during the course, and used keys to identify specimens. I found working with other botanists was really useful, as it helped to share ideas and tackle the sometimes tricky terminology. 

"Louise shared with us some brilliant mnemonics, rhymes and phrases to help us remember key characteristics of some species.

"I have learnt a huge amount over the course, and am soon hoping to carry out Phase 1 surveys on my own using my new botanical skills. I hope to attend more of the BSBI field meetings and contribute to local recording for Atlas 2020

Some of the species seen during the Trees module
Image: Vanessa Reeves
"I am currently taking the intermediate level course at the Botanic Garden this academic year, ‘Plant Identification Skills’, which follows on from the ‘Botany for Beginners' course’. 

"All in all a big thank you to the BSBI for the Training Grant!"

Many thanks to Vanessa for sharing her experience of the Botany for Beginners course - I'm very glad (and relieved) that she enjoyed it! 

Applications are still being accepted for this year's round of BSBI Training Grants but this may not be the case for much longer and the next round doesn't start until January 2018. So if you are interested in applying, please do so as soon as possible.

Finally, I'm wondering if there's a way we could share those mnemonics for ID more widely - what do people think?

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