Thursday 14 June 2018

Charophyte workshops in Ireland

Hunting charophytes I: Lough Sewdy, Westmeath
Image: Hui Murphy
Two very successful two-day charophyte ID courses were held in Co. Westmeath last month, organised by BSBI Irish Officer Maria Long and supported by NPWS. Charophyte experts Nick Stewart and Cillian Roden led the courses which combined indoor workshops with outdoor sessions to practice those newly-acquired ID skills. 

We asked participants to tell us what happened and offer some feedback about the workshops.  

BSBI member Kate said: "I came to the workshop having previously attempted to work through charophyte keys and given up in frustration, not being confident that I was seeing the relevant features, and not having verified specimens to compare anything against. It was wonderful to be able to work through these issues in the workshop with Cillian and Nicks excellent guidance. I got a much better feel for the field characteristics, relative size and 'jizz', and key microscopic features of the most commonly encountered species, and I feel much more confident that I'll be able to correctly identify them in the future! The fact there were two days allocated meant that we had time to consider the aspects of identification that were most challenging for us, and revisit them, so we were not leaving the workshop confused or with unanswered questions. Cillian and Nick's passion and enthusiasm for this group made the workshop fun and relaxed yet still highly educational".

Learning about Ireland's 29 charophyte species
Image: Hui Murphy
Finbarr Wallace, joint County Recorder for East Cork, attended the course and said: "Thanks to all involved in organising and delivering this event. It certainly dispelled some of the myths about the difficulty in identifying members of this group. A great venue with great facilitators. Also great to have the opportunity to see vascular plant species not known from this neck of the woods, especially Cicuta virosa."

Áine from NPWS said: “Huge thanks to the BSBI for organising and participating in the excellent charophyte training course. The level of aquatic expertise from trainers and trainees was highly impressive. Many thanks also to IFI for providing the superb venue of the Lough Owel angling centre.”

Hunting charophytes II: Lough Sewdy, Westmeath
Image: Hui Murphy
Flicking through the feedback forms, other comments received included: “Excellent workshop, very well done!”; “I am glad that I went and learned a lot!”; “It was great to have time to look at so many specimens and figure out what we were looking at and attempt to key the species out. Nick and Cilian were so patient with us which was much appreciated. Having the course run over two days allowed (for me!) the information to linger in my head and get processed before the second day so that it felt as if I was building on a base of information on the second day.”

We always like to offer a balanced view so we trawled through all the feedback forms looking for some negative comments but - sorry, we couldn't find any! Another triumph for Maria and her fellow Irish botanists!

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