Tuesday 31 December 2019

2019: a great year for BSBI members

New Year Plant Hunters in January 2019
Image: L. Marsh
As 2019 draws to a close, this is a good time to reflect on all BSBI's many achievements over the past year and to say a huge THANK YOU to our wonderful members who made it all possible.

We kicked off in January with record participation in the New Year Plant Hunt - 1,473 people took part - and we reached millions of listeners via an interview about the Hunt on BBC Radio 4's Today programme. 

In February we launched British & Irish Botany (B&IB), our new online, Open Access scientific journal. BSBI Head of Ops Jane Houldsworth (aka Superwoman) managed to find a software/ platform package which allowed us to do everything B&IB's predecessor, New Journal of Botany, had done but for a fraction of the cost. As the year ends we have just published our fourth bumper issue and readers seem very pleased with the content.

A rare photo of our limelight-shunning Head of
Ops, Jane Houldsworth (on right) with
Christine and Caroline from CASS
Image: L. Marsh 
Our website underwent a springtime freshen up, making BSBI resources such as Species Accounts and plant distribution maps more easily accessible than ever to members and the wider botanical community as they entered their final season of recording for Atlas 2020. BSBI Database Officer Tom Humphrey ran a quick end of year total earlier today and we can confirm a staggering 46,314,329 records submitted so far and more still pouring in to our Database - one of the world's largest - as we approach the Atlas 2020 deadline. That's an astonishing achievement by BSBI's volunteer recorders! 

When Chris Miles, Chair of the BSBI Board, told us at the 2019 Exhibition Meeting that the collective effort of BSBI volunteers is worth an estimated £10 million per year, he wasn't exaggerating. Our Annual Reviews tell you more about all the successes our members achieve each year. Read the latest Annual Review here

Happy botanists at the 2019
BSBI Exhibition Meeting
Image: R. Blackhall-Miles
The Exhibition Meeting itself was also a huge success - highest ever attendance figures and more younger participants than ever before. 

The 2019 Scottish Botanists' Conference was equally successful - the largest ever turn-out, as far as we know, for a botanical event in Scotland.

2019 saw some exceptional BSBI publications. Angus Hannah's Isle of Bute Flora went on to win the BSBI/ WFS Presidents' Award; the BSBI Handbook on Gentians - by Tim Rich and Andy McVeigh - is a fine addition to the series; Grassland plants of the British & Irish lowlands by Pete Stroh, Kevin Walker et al. is selling like hot cakes; and the 2nd edition of John Poland and Eric Clement's Vegetative Key to the British Flora is at the printers and should be with us in around a fortnight.

Trevor James
Image courtesy of
Herts. Natural History Society
The achievements of two notable BSBI botanists were acknowledged: in November, Clive Stace (author of the New Flora of the British Isles aka the Botanists' Bible) received the 2019 Marsh Botany award and Trevor James (BSBI County Recorder for Herts. and former editor of BSBI News) was awarded the British Empire Medal in the 2020 New Year's Honours List for services to nature conservation. 

BSBI data fed into the 2019 State of Nature reports - they made sobering reading about declines in our wild flower populations, which need the support of a dedicated botanical community, and the data we collect, more than ever if we are to document, monitor and hopefully, finally, begin to address those declines. 

Fortunately our botanical community is continuing to grow. BSBI membership saw a 3% increase in 2019 and we passed the 3,000 mark for the first time in our history, ending the year with more than 3,100 members and extending further our social media reach. The more members we have and the more records in our Database, the louder our voice as we speak to policy-makers, landowners and agencies.

BSBI staff, trustees and officers at the start
of the first workshop in the
CASS-led Resilience project
Image: L. Marsh 
But the Society doesn't plan to rest on its laurels: thanks to funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, we've been able to work with the acclaimed CASS Business School, Centre for Charity Effectiveness to ensure that we are ready to meet the challenges of the future. 

This note by Chairman of the Board Chris Miles explains what the Resilience project is all about, and how it's helping BSBI define what we stand for and ensure that we can achieve what we want to achieve in the next five years. Exciting times ahead so watch this space!

But first we have a New Year Plant Hunt starting in the morning and applications for our 2020 our grants programme also open  tomorrow, so we can support even more botanists as they sharpen their ID skills and help us understand more about the British and Irish flora. Here's to a great year ahead for BSBI's botanical community and a huge thank you to all our members who made 2019 a year to remember. 

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