Friday 12 July 2019

Grass ID workshop, Stirling

Grass ID session at Univ Stirling
Image: F. Anstey
Botanical trainer Faith Anstey has, in recent years, built up quite a reputation with her training sessions in how to ID plant families.

Faith has recently branched out into grass ID sessions - this year she led a session in Stirling which was preceded by one in Boreland, near Lockerbie, led by Chris Miles, BSBI trustee and County Recorder for Dumfriesshire.

Below, Faith tells us a little about the session in Stirling:

Twenty-four people attended this workshop (and there was a waiting list) entitled 'Start to Identify Grasses' at Stirling University on 6th July. The majority were working full-time as ecologists; some were volunteers in TCV or doing surveys for the National Plant Monitoring Scheme. A few were PhD students from the university, which is how Prof Alastair Jump (who also attended) was able to secure the excellent facilities for our use. 

The fieldwork part of the training session
Image: C. Miles 
Four BSBI tutors – three of them County Recorders – acted as group tutors.

Being able to identify common grasses quickly and confidently is essential in ecological recording but this is not a subject covered in degree courses. These people don't generally have time to key grasses out from scratch, or to resort to microscopes. 

So our workshop focuses on the 20 grasses of neutral grassland that are the most common throughout the British isles, learning to identify them by field characters of the sort that experienced botanists – consciously or unconsciously – use every day.

Grass ID session at Boreland
Image: C. Miles
The format of part formal teaching, part hands-on practical sessions in small tutored groups, and part fieldwork was judged by all concerned to work extremely well. The accompanying booklet – really a resumé of the course itself – was theirs to take away and use to consolidate what they had learned. 

Evaluations showed that participants immensely enjoyed their day and felt they now had the basic understanding and confidence to continue studying grasses for themselves.

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