Thursday 30 May 2019

BSBI Training Grants Helping Botanists in 2019 - thanks to Byron's Gin

In the classroom at FSC Juniper Hall
Image: C. Sugrue
BSBI's Training Grants for 2019 were awarded earlier this year following a flurry of applications. 

Sadly we were unable to offer grants to everyone who applied but - thanks to the contribution we receive from Speyside Distillery for every bottle sold of Byron's Gin - we have been able this year to award grants to 25 next generation botanists eager to attend training courses to improve their botanical ID skills

This year's first training grant recipient to report back on the course she was able to attend thanks to her BSBI Training Grant is PhD student Ciara. 

Ciara's homemade sample book
and grass ID key
Image C. Sugrue
She had previously benefited from a BSBI Training Grant back in 2016 but people can apply more than once. 

Ciara is also known to many of you as a member of BSBI's Meetings & Comms Committee and one of the New Year Plant Hunt Support Team but those were not factors in the award of the grant. Her application was considered on merit, as are all grant applications, by members of BSBI's Training Team, who look at various criteria and then vote independently on which applicants they think should receive a grant.

So over to Ciara to tell us about the course she attended:
"Like most beginner botanists, I have been avoiding grasses as I didn’t know where to start. So, when the opportunity came up to apply for a grant to attend the FSC course 'Identifying Grasses in Spring', I couldn’t resist applying.

"The course is run by Judith Allinson who is a co-author of the AIDGAP Key to the Vegetative Stages of Grasses and spent several years carrying out botanical surveys for English Nature, so who better to learn from? 

Looking for Glyceria fluitans floating in the pond
Image: C Sugrue
"The course was held over three full days and three evenings at the FSC centre Juniper Hall in Dorking. It was a mixture of classroom, laboratory work and field work. In the classroom we became familiar with grass terminology and diagnostic features. This was really important in order to understand how the different grasses are separated and how they are keyed out. 

"On the first evening Judith helped us create a book where all our samples could be placed based on a diagnostic feature such as, is the first leaf rolled or folded. This book was a brilliant idea as when sampling in the field we understood why Plant A was placed in Section 2.

Dactylis glomerata: flat at the base
and a one-sided panicle (here, it's
facing away from the camera)
Image: C. Sugrue
"We practiced our knowledge of what we learnt in the laboratory during our daily field excursions. All we needed for our days out were our hand lens, handmade keys and identification book. We visited a number of different habitats, including pastures, downland, heathland and woodland habitats. This exposure to different habitats meant that we could learn about as many different grasses as possible. On one afternoon field excursion we identified 32 grasses! 

"Judith is a brilliant botanist. She gave us lots of helpful hints and tips to help us identify the grasses both in flower and not in flower. At the end of the course we were tested on our knowledge of the grasses we had seen. This was helpful as it made you realise how much you had learnt over the three days.

"Since attending the course, I can now put my new found grasses knowledge and identification skills into practice with my local BSBI group. I thoroughly enjoyed the course run by Judith Allinson on 'Identifying Grasses in Spring' and would highly recommend applying for a BSBI training grant so that, like me, you are able to overcome your problem group!"

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