Saturday 11 November 2017

BSBI Training Grants helping botanists in 2017: Part Four

Wildmoor Pool
Image: D. Wallace
In August, we told you how a BSBI training grant allowed Tomos to study orchids in Scotland.

Now we have another account of how a BSBI training grant made it possible for botanist Debs Wallace to get to grips with aquatics. 

Debs had already applied for, and received, a training grant in 2016 to study grass ID - a reminder that you can apply more than once for a BSBI training grant. 

Over to Debs to tell us now about her second grant:

Montgomery Canal: the group contemplate
the range of duckweeds
Image: D. Wallace
"When I applied for a BSBI training grant this year to attend a three-day Aquatics Plants course I confessed that I had a copy of the BSBI Pondweeds Handbook which was in pristine condition on my book shelf and had never been out in the field or anywhere near a Potamogeton (Pondweed). 

"I am delighted to report that this situation has well and truly changed thanks to receiving a BSBI training grant and attending a three-day Aquatics Plants course. 

"Chris Preston’s wonderful Pondweeds Handbook has now seen some action.

How many different duckweeds
are in the tray?
Image: D. Wallace
"The course was led by Nick Law at Preston Montford FSC and was a mixture of field work, lab work and a bit of fun and games added in to make learning enjoyable. During the course we were introduced to a broad selection of aquatic plants growing in their natural habitat and these were supplemented by specimens which Nick had brought in. 

"Day one, was a visit to Wildmoor Pool and with beautiful sunny weather it was a perfect introduction to the course.

"Day two saw us exploring the Montgomery Canal where the day started with a tray of Duckweed species to sort out and identify. 

"The course handbook by Sarah Whild and Nick Law is a very useful resource and is now a regular addition to my field kit.

"During the course we looked at a range of Potamogeton species and with Nick’s help, and a bit of perseverance, we got to grips with some of the Potamogeton terminology such as, amplexicaul / semi-amplexicaul and sclerenchymatous strands (not words that often crop up in everyday conversation). 

Potamogeton praelongus
(Long-stalked pondweed)
Image: D. Wallace
"We found stipules, phyllodes and turions and I added several new words to my botanical vocabulary during the course.
"We looked at the vegetative characterises of emergent species such as Sparganium erectum (Branched Bur-reed) with its strongly keeled leaves with dark brown leaf tips and Butomus umbellatus (Flowering Rush) with its twisted leaves which have fine, spiral fibres in the leaves which can be seen if a leaf is carefully pulled apart.

"Learning the techniques for preparing voucher specimens of aquatic plants was extremely useful as many aquatic plants do not naturally lend themselves to being arranged on herbarium paper. 

Spiral fibres of Butomus umbellatus
Image: D. Wallace
"The technique has several stages (and many changes of paper before the plant is pressed). Starting by placing a sheet of paper in a tray of shallow water, the plants are added and arranged in the water. The paper is then carefully extracted with the plants in place.

"We also made grapnels and used these on the final morning to collect plants from the River Severn. 

"I left the course feeling keen to do more and soon signed up as a canal and Rivers Trust volunteer and have subsequently assisted with a survey of a section of the Rochdale Canal SSSI.

Nick Law demonstrating how to carefully float
aquatic plants onto a sheet of paper
Image: D. Wallace
"As an existing volunteer recorder for the Greater Manchester Ecology Unit, I regularly help to survey Local Wildlife Sites and with my newfound interest in aquatic plants, my grapnel has had several outings to sites with waterbodies. 

"The aquatic plants course has enabled me to record far more species and make a greater contribution to these surveys. I was delighted to find Lythrum portula (Water Purslane) and Eleocharis acicularis (Needle Spike-rush) in ponds on a golf course in Bury. 

Eleocharis acicularis is not commonly recorded in VC 59 and the last confirmed record was in 1992. The County Recorder was pleased with a recent (confirmed) record for a new site.

Lythrum portula
Image: D. Wallace
 "I am very grateful to the BSBI for the training grant and to Nick Law for an excellent course. This course has added a further dimension to my voluntary recording.

I am going to take my grapnel to the BSBI Summer Meeting next year and I hope to find some waterbodies on the Isle of Man to investigate".

Many thanks to Debs for telling us about the BSBI training grant she received and how it has helped her get to grips with aquatics. 

If you are at the BSBI Summer Meeting on the Isle of Man next year and you need some help with pondweed ID, you'll know who to ask!

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