Tuesday, 18 July 2017

BSBI Training Grants helping botanists in 2017: Part One

Sedges collected and displayed by Lynda
Image: S. Brien
Another year, another round of BSBI training grants awarded to budding botanists keen to improve their skills

The first of this year's grant recipients, keen to tell readers about the course they were able to attend thanks to that BSBI training grant, is Shane. Last time we heard from him, he was volunteering with BSBI Irish Officer Maria Long. Now he's brushing up his sedge ID skills. 

Over to Shane:  

"I took it upon myself to attend a course on the “Introduction to sedges” with the National Biodiversity Data Centre (NBDC) in Co. Waterford. I was highly interested and enthusiastic in learning more for this group, the different structures, how to key them to species level, and ID tips that may help in the field. Also, when I heard Lynda Weekes was teaching it (after her amazing talk on rushes at the Irish BSBI conference 2017), I put my name on the list instantly.

Schoenus nigricans, one of the "other sedges"
Image: S. Brien
"The morning session involved a slideshow presentation on the differences between sedges, rushes, and grasses (the saying I was taught before this course, “sedges have edges; rushes are round; grasses have nodes right to the ground). It can be confusing to a person learning this group for the first time, but once shown the different characteristics of sedges first hand it becomes engrained in the mind afterward. Sounds simple from a presentation than an actual specimen.

"The next segment looked at the number of different species found in Ireland. Mainly observing the differences between other sedge and true sedge groups. This interesting part involved looking at some specimens that were brought in (thanks to Lynda), which were held up in bottles and arranged per habitat type. We worked in pairs, due to the limitation of handouts, using draft copies of the sedges & rushes book being devised by the NBDC that will have a similar format to the grass guide (Fitzpatricket al., 2014). The other sedge specimens brought in for the day included Eleocharis palustris, Schoenus nigricans, Schoenoplectus lacustris, Trichophorum germanicum, Eriophorum angustifolium & Bolboschoensis maritimus. After looking at these specimens, everyone dispersed for lunch as the afternoon session started the true sedge (Carex) fun.

Carex otrubae, one of the "true sedges"
Image: S. Brien
"I found the afternoon session very helpful when trying to distinguish Carex species that looked very similar in the field, it only takes a bit of practice to figure things out eventually. It started off with some of the more notable species such as Carex pulicaris and C. otrubae, with the obvious inflorescence they both possess. The key was needed for the next specimens which possessed an inflorescence of the terminal spike on top and other spikes on the stem below (appressed or hanging). Everyone struggled at the first obstacle in the key with “are the utricles flat?”, and most answers being “maybe”, “possibly”, “I don’t know”. Lynda said “they shouldn’t be” then grabbed another specimen to show us the flat utricles in comparison to the specimen we were keying out. 

Groups looking at and keying out sedges
Image: S. Brien
"She boosted our confidence after that to work from there on, having each pair work at their own accords or collectively as a working group. I and my partner worked through the specimens quite well but stumbled from time to time. One specimen (C. laevigata) we worked with was slightly immature which made it difficult to key. Lynda was extremely helpful in pointing that out and highlighted the need to look at several specimens when in the field.

"The final part involved a walkabout around the data centre in search of a few sedges in the overgrown grassland area and Waterford IT campus. Carex sylvatica and C. pendula weren’t picked purposely because Lynda wanted the pairs to find them in the field and see how different sedges looked in the field aspect. 

"I found this course extremely useful and would like to thank the BSBI grant scheme for funding this. I have already put my knowledge gained into practice. The BSBI Dublin group went to Clogherhead, Co. Louth where I pointed out C. distans and C. otrubae while scanning through the sand dunes, salt marshes, and rocky areas".

Many thanks to Shane for telling us about the course he was able to attend, thanks to a BSBI training grant.