Monday 7 August 2017

BSBI training grants helping botanists in 2017: Part Two

Mark teaching the class; Richard (on left)
peering down a microscope
Image: J. Duffell
This year, botanist Richard is on a mission to get to grips with IDing grasses, sedges and rushes. He applied for, and was awarded, a BSBI training grant and here is his report on the course he was able to attend:

"Following on from my last blogpost about the introductory grass ID session I attended with the Species Recovery Trust, last month I attended the FSC Grasses, Sedges and Rushes intermediate level 3 day course. This was held at the FSC Margam Discovery Centre in South Wales, and I must say, what wonderful surroundings to be learning in.

"The course started on Friday teatime, and after an introduction by our tutor Mark Duffell, we had dinner (which included freshly dug potatoes to die for), and then the evening was spent with Mark showing us rushes and how to apply the Juncaceae key in Stace 3.

The group keying out
Image: R. Mabbutt
"Once the trickier terminology was understood and we were keying out in small groups, in pairs and on our own, we were shown some finer points with a handout from the Plant Crib differentiating between observations such as Juncus acutiflorus and J. articulatus fruiting capsules, and J. conglomeratus and J. effusus cyme bract differences. [LM: download the Plant Crib for Juncus from this page.]

"This is exactly the level of tuition I needed and I went to bed a very happy man.

"Saturday morning was in the classroom, and it was grass day. We were to use 'Hubbard' and to everyone's relief, Mark had reformatted and updated the key making it a pleasure to use. There were plenty of handouts on this course so we could concentrate more on the talks than on writing it all down. I was impressed with the overhead projector and microscope combination which helped very much indeed.

Books used on the course
Image: R. Mabbutt
"We were given many samples to key out, and I became pleased with myself and the nitty gritty of the flower parts, especially once I realised that the usual palea/lemma configuration isn't always the case. This was one of those eureka moments for me, and the three students from MMU who were sitting at my table were very patient and helpful with me whilst I was wrapping my head around it all. I had my uses in return though, with skills they needed help with, so we made for a good little gang of four.

"In the afternoon we went out into Margam Park and ID'd more grasses and some rushes. This was followed up in the evening by identifying samples we had picked and a seemingly endless flow of material to expand our ID database with.

Keying out by the lake
Image: J. Duffell
"Sunday was spent on sedges and their allies. Again, the morning was spent in the classroom getting used to the finer points of the BSBI Sedges Handbook. I like this book, and own a copy of the first edition, but after seeing the third edition which includes their allies, I think Summerfield Books need a visit on payday.

"After lunch we were taken to Kenfig NNR to ID in the field. We didn't just concentrate on sedges either, but added to our arsenal of grass and rush identifications. Whilst we were there though we couldn't help but notice the plethora of amazing species from other plant families. 

Still keying out!
Image: R. Mabbutt
"I felt like a dog with two tails, but alas, the heavens opened in an absolute deluge, so we grabbed as many specimens as we could and made our way back to the centre. The rest of the afternoon and evening was spent identifying our findings and even more material from Mark. How he kept up with the constant barrage of questions from the 16 of us I'll never know.

"On Monday we went out in the minibus first thing to Clyne Common, a site on the other side of Swansea. It was heathland with wet flushes and was rich with species from our three families. After having a go at IDing some of the plants we found, and hopefully nailing the difference between J. articulatus and J. acutifolius, we all sat a test, with ten minutes allowed for each of five species picked by Mark. 

Mark (on left) teaching in the field
Image: J. Duffell
"We all thoroughly enjoyed it - I scored four out of five, so was rather happy having only seen one of these taxa before at a genus level. By the time we got back it was almost time to head home. A quick round up by Mark and, after we all thanked him and his wife Jenni, we went our separate ways.

"The course was intense without being overbearing, and the tutor a very helpful person that explained things to the point of them becoming easy. I'm very sure that what I've learned will not just help me in the field, but with my forthcoming FISC exam.

"I'd like to thank BSBI for awarding me a training grant so that I could attend this course."

Many thanks Richard for telling us about the course he was able to attend thanks to a BSBI training grant!

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