Monday 30 April 2018

Irish BSBI Spring Conference 2018: a huge success!

Maria opens the day's proceedings
Image: S. Brien
The Irish BSBI Conference 2018 was held last month and reports filtering through via social media suggest that it was a resounding success and yet another feather in organiser Maria Long's cap! 

So I asked Jessica Hamilton, who gave a talk at the conference about the BSBI Kerry group (Jessica is the guiding force behind the group) to send us a short report and to include any comments she'd heard from fellow delegates. 

Over to Jessica: 
Mike Porter's talk on violas
Image: J Hamilton
"The best one yet!" / "Lovely mix, well done" / "Getting people together".

"One month ago now, (how fast is time flying this year?!), the Irish BSBI Conference was held at the National Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin, in Dublin on the 24th March. Once people had gathered and received their programme for the day, the day’s events kicked off with a warm welcome from the ever enthusiastic Maria (BSBI Irish Officer)

"Throughout the day people used the hashtag #IrishBSBIconference to tweet the ongoings of the day on social media and give the conference a presence online.

Mike (in blue fleece) leads the viola workshop
Image: J. Hamilton
"The talks kicked off with Mike Porter (author of the BSBI Handbook on Violas). He gave an elated and comprehensive talk on violas. 

"I think many people appreciate these spring beauties, but Mike spoke about them with such infectious passion that after ten years of preparing the handbook he had the same love of this group of plants that I’m sure he had on the first day he clasped eyes them.

"Mike’s talk on violas was definitely a highlight for me, as was his workshop which he carried out later on that day (more on that later) and others agreed with me:

Clare Heardman talks about Ellen Hutchins
Image: J. Hamilton
“Viola talk- very funny and informative”.

"Next up was Clare Heardman, County Recorder for West Cork, who gave a heartfelt and fantastic talk on Ellen Hutchins (Ireland’s first female botanist). It was fascinating- yet moving - to learn about how, despite her struggles and tragedies that she experienced, she was still able to pour herself into her love of botany and accomplished so much as she did. 

"As Clare pointed out, botany definitely appeared to be a safe place for her from which to escape from all of life’s woes and troubles. This is something I - and I’m sure others - can relate to.

Jessica talks about the BSBI Kerry group
Image: M Long
"Next I was up to give my talk on some of my BSBI experience and a rundown of what the BSBI Kerry local group has been up to so far. Around this time last year was when I attended my first ever BSBI conference so to have been asked to speak this year was such an honour. 

"After I wrapped up my talk I was followed by Aoife Delaney whose talk 'Environmental drivers of biological communities in dune slacks' was received with great interest.

"As Edwina Cole, County Recorder for East Cork, said “Aoife’s presentation was particularly interesting- a much needed reminder of the complexities of ecosystems and how one group alone cannot predict its wealth” Very well said. 

Colm talks about the BSBI Dublin group
Image: J Hamilton
"After a lunch break, there were a series of flash talks by six enthusiastic speakers - Robert Northridge OBE who spoke about Trichophorum - identifying the various species and their hybrids. His enthusiasm and drive are particularly admirable -  anyone who has been out recording in the field with him will instantly pick up on this seemingly endless energy and passion.

"Elaine Moore Mackey of the Irish Society of Botanical Artists told us all about the work of the society and promoted their upcoming exhibition Éireannach’ – which opens on the 5th May and looks to be absolutely delightful and coincides with the launch of their book, also called Èireannach, which will contain a collection of paintings of plants that are native to Ireland. [Ed.: the book also has a 2-page feature about BSBI, written by Irish Officer Maria Long.] 

Rory talks about the Killarney Fern
Image: J. Hamilton
"Colm from the Dublin BSBI local group gave a roundup of the local group he leads in Dublin. Local groups such as this are important ways of getting people involved in recording and looking at all the wonderful botanical delights one can find.

"Maria also gave a quick talk on lycopod surveys and Rory Hodd (of Rough Crew fame) spoke about the benefits of peering into dark crevices in search of the Trichomanes speciosum (Killarney Fern) gametophyte. I have only seen the gametophyte a handful of times and both times were as a result of Rory diving into a dark crevice, so keep up the good work Rory :D 

Horsetail specimens in the Herbarium
Image: J. Hamilton
"We were also lucky to have a talk by Pauline Campbell who gave us the lowdown on the National Plant Monitoring Scheme in Northern Ireland.

"All six flash talks were all equally as interesting and captivating. 

"The five minute limit may seem quite short- and it flies by, but in those five minutes what was great to see was that all speakers in that short period, as well as giving informative talks, were able to portray their enthusiasm for their particular area they were speaking of.

Mike's viola workshop in the herbarium
Image: J. Hamilton
"While the County Recorders had a computer workshop, for the rest of us, John Conaghan gave a fantastic talk on horsetails which also featured herbarium specimens that were absolutely beautiful and look like hand painted works of art, I definitely looked at horsetails in a different way seeing them like that. 

"Towards the end half of the day there was a very successful and popular viola workshop with Mike Porter which was one of my many highlights and it was great to get hands-on practice looking at specimens both live and from the herbarium. 

In the Palm House at NBG Glasnevin
Image M. Long
"One of the herbarium specimens which was particularly interesting was Viola rupestris (Teesdale violet), which Ireland has no records of, but Mike wants us Irish folk to keep our eyes peeled for this miniscule beauty.

"A group of us also enjoyed a fantastic talk in the getting a tour of the palm house led by the director of the gardens Dr. Matthew Jebb. 

"We first started in the main gardens where he produced a small matchbox, which he revealed that inside it contained a seed of all of our c840 native flowering plant species. Amazing! 

Into the top of the palm house we went and watch a breath taking place it was, both from the views that encompassed us, and the humidity that hit us. 

"While we were in the palm house others got to have a session and updates for Atlas 2020, giving updates no how it’s going so far and throwing ideas around of what to focus on post atlas. "Post Atlas 2020 planning a good idea".

Matthew Jebb's matchbox containing seeds of
every flowering plant species in Ireland!
Image: C. Heardman
"Also throughout day for people to view and was a fantastic Information and identification station which people availed of to ID any mystery plants they had and view some of the live specimens that were also on display such as my favourite, the Rue-leaved saxifrage. 

[Ed: Note that there are also posters on display about Atlas 2020 and about Wild Flower Hour!]

"The day was concluded with final words by our host Maria. I asked Maria to give some feedback on how she felt the day went:

Posters about Atlas 2020 and Wild Flower Hour
Image: J. Hamilton
“Each year we try hard to put on a varied programme, and to keep costs low, but I'm still always nervous that it won't go well, or that people won't come, or that they won't enjoy the day if they do. 

"Thankfully, all the work and worry was worth it, and we've just had another really successful conference. 

"It was a busy, fast-paced day, but there was plenty time too for attendees to chat and catch up over coffee and lunch breaks. 

"Great thanks are due to all contributors, with almost every one of them being mentioned as a highlight by someone in the feedback!”   

Maria's talk about lycopods
Image: J. Hamilton
"To finish up, if you didn’t get a chance to attend the conference you’ll now hopefully have a nice idea of what went on. 

"I on behalf of all attendees want to extend my thanks and gratitude to Maria for organising such a jam-packed fun day that had something for everyone and I look forward with anticipation to next year’s conference. 

"I think it’s safe to say everyone who attended thoroughly enjoyed their day. Feedback is important for events likes this and feedback received was all very positive, so let’s conclude with two quotes from attendees - Kate and Conor:

Plant ID table, posters & leaflets about BSBI
Image: J. Hamilton
“Thanks Maria for putting on such a great conference last weekend - it was really enjoyable, and great catching up with people” - Kate-Marie O’Connor.

“Thanks again for the conference. It was excellent!” -Conor Owens

Hear Hear! JH".

Ed.: Many thanks to Jessica for this report and to Maria for organising another great day! 

You may be interested to know that you can now download presentations from the conference - just head over to the Irish Conferences page.

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