Thursday, 27 December 2018

Volunteers ready to offer support during New Year Plant Hunt 2019 and beyond

Ellen checks a plant during
New Year Plant Hunt 2018
Image: C. Sugrue 
With only a few days to go until BSBI's eighth New Year Plant Hunt starts on Saturday 29th December, it seemed like a good time to introduce you to the volunteers who will be helping behind the scenes on the New Year Plant Hunt Support Team. Some of them also help out throughout the year, organising events and promoting BSBI in journal articles, on television, on podcasts and across social media.

Last year we introduced you to Ciara, who will be helping out again this year, as will Ellen, who tells us here about her experience of volunteering with BSBI. 

Over to Ellen:

"Last year I joined the BSBI New Year Plant Hunt (NYPH) Support Team, working with a great team to assist plant lovers and botanists (a mixture of beginners and experts) in uploading and sorting records that came flooding in. This year will be the eighth year that BSBI has held the NYPH, each year giving us a better understanding of the impact of changing weather patterns on plant flowering times throughout the UK and Ireland.

Ellen, Ciara, Brian & Louise with fellow recorders
during New Year Plant Hunt 2018 in Leicester
Image: J. Clough
"During the NYPH people go out for up to three hours (stopping the clock for tea breaks and cake stops), either alone, with family or friends, or as part of an organised group Hunt, to see what flowering plants they can find, and uploading their findings via the online recording form

"Being a part of the NYPH is an amazing way to get involved with plant lovers across the UK and Ireland. I witnessed a strong sense of community that the hunts enlist on social media, with people helping each other with tricky identifications or just sharing what they have found in their local areas. There is also a competitive edge to get the first record each year submitted, or to find more plants in bloom than friends in other counties.

Anita Rani interviews Ellen and Ciara
for BBC Countryfile
Image courtesy of A. Rani
"Volunteering with the NYPH team has led to me becoming more involved with the BSBI, and this year I was invited to join the BSBI’s Meetings & Communications Committee. I helped plan the 2018 Exhibition Meeting and Recorders’ Conference, I’ve written articles about BSBI (check out my piece in the latest issue of New Nature magazine) and in January I was interviewed on BBC Countryfile. Having these experiences has really broadened my work experience and given me a great insight into the workings of the BSBI. 

"Closer to home, I’ve been out recording with my local botany group and I became assistant tutor on the Botany for Beginners course at the University of Leicester Botanic Garden. This has built my confidence in teaching plant ID and expanded my own skills by working with experienced botanists from across the country.

"This year I am helping with the NYPH again as I found it to be such a rewarding experience that I plan to repeat for many years to come. Working with such a welcoming and helpful team has really built the experience, especially BSBI Comms Officer Louise Marsh who welcomes all new volunteers with open arms!"

Ellen demonstrates two essential skills to students
on the Botany for Beginners course:
balancing ID books on your head, and
(the important one!): making learning fun.
Image: L. Marsh
Thanks Ellen: It's true, I'm always delighted to welcome new volunteers and try to make sure they have a really enjoyable experience. 

Some volunteers are long-term BSBI members who can spare a little time and want to 'give something back' and help the next generation - there are lots of opportunities to do that. 

Others are early career botanists, and I try to match them with opportunities that will help them build up skills and - let's be perfectly honest here - will look good on their CVs! 

If you'd like to explore volunteering opportunities available to you with BSBI, why not drop me an email and let me know what would appeal to you?

Joining Ellen, Ciara and me on the NYPH Support Team this weekend are BSBI Council member Mary Dean and PhD student Natalie, both of whom will be helping with general enquiries, and Brian 'Eagle-Eyes' Laney, who will be working alongside Ian Denholm to help with tricky plant identifications. And as always BSBI's Database Officer Tom Humphrey will be handling the tech stuff and BSBI's Head of Science Kevin Walker will be analysing the results. 

Hope you all have a very Happy New Year Plant Hunt