Wednesday 30 November 2016

BSBI Annual Exhibition Meeting: Exhibit Number One

Monica's exhibit at the AEM
Image: R. Horton
There were 38 exhibits on display at Saturday's BSBI Annual Exhbibition Meeting and here we present the first. Over to Monica Frisch to tell us about her exhibit:

"I didn't think I had time to put together a display for the AEM this year but then I remembered an idea I'd had for a photoguide to basal rosettes. Some species of plants, such as many of the thistles, have very obvious and often distinctive basal rosettes, but these are rarely illustrated in the field guides. So I thought I should photograph them and perhaps build up a collection showing typical rosettes of common plants. 

"About a week before the AEM I sat down at my computer and started going through my photos of plants. The result was a small display showing basal rosettes of four species of thistle: Stemless Thistle Cirsium  acaule, Woolly Thistle C. eriophorum, Marsh Thistle C. palustre and Spear Thistle C. vulgare. Then I added some notes comparing the last three, and put them out on a table at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology.

I'd also got a photo of a Dandelion (Taraxacum agg.) and Fox and Cubs (Pilosella aurantiaca) and some notes on other plants with basal rosettes – most of the British species of Plantain, some crucifers, the Primulas – but I didn't have space to display them.

Stemless Thistle aka Picnickers' Nightmare!
Image courtesy of J. Crellin/Floral Images
My display generated some interest so now I'm thinking about how to take further 'Monica's guide to basal rosettes'. Obviously I need more photos – it was an omission not to include one of the commonest thistles, Creeping Thistle , Cirsium arvense, but I didn't have any photos, and C. vulgare has completely different first year rosettes. 

Perhaps I could see if the Field Studies Council would like to publish a fold-out guide to basal rosettes. But should I limit it to thistles? Or to Asteraceae? But I expect I'll be busy taking more photos and perhaps there'll be a more comprehensive display for next year's AEM. Thanks to everyone who commented on my display and made suggestions".

Many thanks to Monica for telling us about her exhibit - it will be interesting to see how 'Monica's guide to basal rosettes' develops. In the meantime, you can download the pdf here showing images of rosettes of Marsh, Woolly and Spear Thistles, and a table showing how to separate these three species.

Monday 28 November 2016

BSBI Annual Exhibition Meeting 2016: a roaring success!

Most colourful exhibit at the AEM?
Entries from the BSBI Photographic Competition
Image: R. Clark
On Saturday, almost 200 botanists came together for BSBI's Annual Exhibition Meeting, held this year at CEH Wallingford.

They came from as far afield as Dundee and the Channel Isles, from Surrey and from Armagh, and - oh dear, how do we say this without sounding unbearably smug - the day was a resounding success! 

First, there were 38 botanical exhibits to enjoy, covering many aspects of botany on these islands and featuring herbarium sheets, photographs and items from the BRC archive alongside research posters, news about BSBI projects, training opportunities, activities and publications, and demos of mobile apps for recorders. 

Kate Petty's exhibit on Sea Rocket
Image: K. Petty
We hope to share as many of these exhibits as possible with you in the coming weeks along with some of the stories behind them. 

The huge selection of photographs submitted to the BSBI Photographic Competition looked fabulous and we got to see some live plants on Brian Laney's rare plant stall and in John Poland's Vegetative Plant ID Quiz.  

There was plenty of space for us to mill around the exhibits and lots of comfortable seating areas scattered around, so we could sit and natter about planty things.

Many thanks to Denise and her team at CEH Wallingford (Doug, Jimmy, James, Jarred and Luso) for accommodating 195 botanists and making sure everything was just right for us!  

A full Lecture Theatre as talks get underway
Image: L. Marsh 
Then there were our nine speakers, who informed, entertained and inspired, and whose presentations we will also be uploading here. 

During the morning session 'From Field to Map', we heard from Field Meetings Secretary Jon Shanklin about the plants recorded by BSBI botanists on our field meetings, from BSBI Welsh Officer Polly Spencer-Vellacott on Rare Plant Registers and from President-elect Chris Metherell on BSBI Handbooks which help us record more effectively. 

Jo Judge browsing exhibits
from BSBI's Training Team
Image: S. Townsend
We also enjoyed a talk by Jo Judge, CEO of the National Biodiversity Network, about exciting changes in the pipeline for NBN. Then it was the BSBI's AGM and then of course our thoughts turned to lunch... 

It's a funny thing that although botanists will tolerate a long day in the field with only water and a soggy sandwich, put two BSBI members in a room without a nice cup of tea and a cake and just wait for us to start grumbling!  

So three cheers for Phil and his team who kept us so well fed and watered throughout the day. The hot lunch options were very welcome on a wintry afternoon and the scones with jam and clotted cream have already received two honourable mentions on the feedback forms (along with the usual comments that there was too much on offer and people weren't able to do everything - but we make no apology for this abundance of riches!)

BSBI publications were in the spotlight again after lunch with the award of the Engler Silver Medal to the authors of the Hybrid Flora of the British Isles

Sandy Knapp, David Pearman & Chris Preston
Image: L. Marsh
Sandy Knapp presented the award on behalf of IAPT to David Pearman and Chris Preston, and then Chris launched the afternoon session 'Putting Plants on the Map' with a talk about the early days of BSBI and BRC/CEH working together

Then Lucy Ridding (CEH) told us about using BSBI data to monitor vegetation changes, Paul Smith talked about surprising plant records and the BSBI botanists who recorded them and Markus Wagner showed us CEH's Rare Arable Flowers App

The caption on the slide says it all!
Image: R. Clark
A final chance to look at the exhibits, visit Summerfield Books' pop-up bookshop or catch up with people over coffee and cake, and then back into the lecture theatre where David Roy pulled together the many threads of BSBI and BRC/CEH working together over decades and into the future. 

And then - boo hoo! - it was all over for another year apart from thank yous from BSBI President John Faulkner and the traditional post-AEM social at the local pub.  

A great day catching up with old friends, meeting new ones and finding out what fellow botanists are up to. 

Huge thanks to David Roy, our keynote speaker and also our host: he and his staff did a fabulous job looking after us all day! Equally huge thanks to organisers Jodey Peyton (Ecologist at CEH) and Kylie Jones (Ecologist at Anglian Water) from BSBI's Meetings & Communications Committee - they both put in many volunteer hours to make sure the 2016 AEM was a resounding success.

Ryan and George with their AEM 2016 exhibits
Image: Sarah Whild
And finally, two nice things to report: 

1. More young people attending and exhibiting than at any previous AEM, with a herbarium display by Glenda and her students at Univ Bath, Edge Hill undergrad Josh Styles on ancient woodland indicators (work supported by a BSBI Training Grant), research posters by Lucy Ridding and Charlie Outhwaite at BRC/CEH, George Garnett's poster about the Young Darwin Scholarship and Ryan Clark's 'A Focus on Nature' stand.   

2. During the AGM, it was announced that BSBI membership is on the rise, bucking the national trend for natural history societies. It may be only a 1% rise so far but you know what they say about little acorns... so here's the link if you want to join our growing botanical community!  

Thursday 24 November 2016

BSBI Exhibition Meeting 2016: the countdown

Tim Rich hunting hawkweeds in the Hebrides:
he has a hawkweed exhibit at the AEM.
Image: P. Smith (who's speaking at the AEM!)
This Saturday's BSBI Annual Exhibition Meeting is rapidly approaching and many months of hard work, led by Jodey and Kylie of BSBI's Meetings & Communications Team, are about to pay off and give us one fabulous day for botanists. 

At least that's what we, and 181 people who have already booked, are hoping!

You will have seen the programme of nine speakers, including keynote speaker David Roy, Head of the Biological Records Centre at CEH Wallingford, who are our hosts this year. 

We also look forward to welcoming speaker Jo Judge, CEO of the National Biodiversity Network to tell us about some of the changes we can look forward to at the NBN in the coming months.

Exhibitor Lynne Farrell presenting an award
in her name at the recent NBN Conference
Image: Sue Townsend (AEM co-chair!)
But the AEM is also about exhibits and we have 38 for you to enjoy this year. 

Some are familiar names like George Garnett, Tim Rich, Lynne Farrell, Oli Pescott, Monica Frisch, Fred Rumsey and John Poland... 

Some are first-time exhibitors and we are mostly keeping them under wraps until Saturday; we'll be uploading as many as possible of the exhibits as pdfs to the AEM webpage next week, so we'll tell you a bit more about each exhibitor as their exhibit becomes available.

John Poland (right) signs a copy of his & Eric's
celebrated Vegetative Key. Catch John's
Vegetative Plant ID Quiz at the AEM
Image: L. Marsh 
One new exhibit I just have to spill the beans about comes from A Focus on Nature, the network for young nature conservationists and naturalists - they are doing an amazing job and I'm really looking forward to finding out more and sharing it with all of you. 

There will also be a demonstration of something that's an absolute first for BSBI and will (we hope) knock your socks off but I really am sworn to secrecy on that one until Saturday!

Another treat which can be discussed now: at the AEM, we will all see Dr Sandy Knapp presenting the Engler Silver Medal to co-authors of the fabulous Hybrid Flora of the British Isles

Chris Preston at the 2014 launch of the
England Red List at Kew Gardens
Image: L. Marsh (also exhibiting at the AEM!)
We're delighted that at least two of the three co-authors will be joining us: David Pearman and also Dr Chris Preston, who will be offering a talk straight after the presentation.

Chris spent over 30 years working as a Botanist at the Biological Records Centre and he has been an active, highly respected and much loved BSBI member for more than forty years, so who better to tell us something of how both organisations started working together in those pioneer days for biological recording. Chris is also offering an exhibit on the same theme for which he has raided the BRC/CEH archives, but he won't tell us any more than that!

And then David Roy will bring things bang up to date with his keynote on how we are continuing to develop and build on that very successful partnership between BSBI and BRC/CEH in the 21st century - and some of our exhibits will show the results of that partnership so far.

It should be a great day! If you can't make it to CEH Wallingford on Saturday, you can follow the action via our Facebook account and via our Twitter account using the hashtag #BSBIExhibitionMeeting  - and watch this space for updates.  

Tuesday 22 November 2016

BioLinks: what do botanists think?

Have you heard about BioLinks, a new project from the Field Studies Council? Keiron Brown tells us more about it below and asks for feedback from botanists. Over to Keiron:

"This year the Field Studies Council (FSC) has been developing a new biological recording training project to follow on from the work undertaken in previous projects such as Biodiversity Fellows and Tomorrow’s Biodiversity. BioLinks is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and hopes to develop invertebrate identification skills within the biological recording community.

In addition, the project will also look to build tools to benefit the wider biological recording community, including botanists. Plans include:
  • Developing online guidance for biological recorders of all taxa to help simplify some of the tricky aspects of recording, such as data flow and gaining permissions from land owners.
  • Creation of an online Field Notes database that allows naturalists to record ecological observations, such as behaviours and species associations.
  • Production of an online Biodiversity Training Signpost tool that will allow recording schemes to promote their training events and provide a ‘one stop shop’ for naturalists to find training courses.
  • Field recorder days, good old-fashioned field trips where recorders can enjoy and identify all kinds of wildlife together.
  • Regional recorder conferences that bring together recorders to share their finds and feedback on the outputs of the records that they have collated. 

As part of the development for this project we have tried to listen to what the recorders want, and as a result we’ve surveyed hundreds of biological recorders. The data collated from this survey will be shared publicly with other biodiversity organisations, groups and schemes so that others can use this information to support funding applications for biological recording and biodiversity training projects.

And now we need help from the botanists! Our online survey takes around 15 minutes to complete and asks questions about biological recording and how you think the BioLinks project can help strengthen the biological recording community. So far, the survey has been filled in largely by invertebrate recorders and we want to make sure the views of botanists are represented within our survey.

The online survey is open to anyone and can be filled in here."

Many thanks to Keiron for telling us more about BioLinks.

Friday 18 November 2016

BSBI Training Grants help botanists in 2016: Part Two

Common Bent Agrostis capillaris
Image courtesy of Floral Images
Following on from this recent post by Debs about how a BSBI Training Grant helped her attend an ID course, we now have another post from one of this year's Training Grant recipients. 

Over to Colin to tell us more: 

"As a marine biologist the terrestrial world was never a focus of my academic background. However, since the arrival of my first daughter and the realisation that walks would have to slow down to approximately 1 mph (if lucky) I began to take in my surroundings more, especially those things that didn’t move despite the noise! 

"I began to study trees and then moved on to flowers once I had bought ‘Rose’. I had previously avoided grasses but decided to take the plunge on a grass, rush and sedge course with the Field Studies Council

"The course was absolutely fit for purpose as it encouraged the students to use the literature and not be daunted by the difficulties of grass ID

Annual meadow-grass Poa annua
Image courtesy of Floral Images
"The lecturer was incredibly enthusiastic, able to impart his knowledge but also very aware of the need for students to walk away with confidence that they could at least separate out key groups and families. 

"Best of all I was surrounded by people who also liked to look at plants without pulling leaves off and uprooting things willy nilly!"

Many thanks to Colin for telling us about the course he was able to attend. 

Watch out for more blogposts coming up by this year's Training Grant recipients and don't forget that you can find out more about training courses, grants and all things related to learning more about botany here

Monday 14 November 2016

Next generation botanists at the BSBI AEM: Part One

OBBS stand at Freshers' Fair
Image courtesy of Annals of Botany blog
We are delighted that members of the newly-formed Oxford Brookes Botanical Society have accepted our invitation to exhibit at this year's BSBI Exhibition Meeting, to be held on 26th November at CEH Wallingford.

I first heard about this newly-formed society on the Annals of Botany blog in a blogpost with the eye-catching headline 'What does it take to run a botanical society?' 

Lecturer Anne Osterreider & Shamma (OBBS)
Image courtesy of Annals of Botany blog
Oxford Brookes Botanical Society has only been around a short while compared to BSBI, founded in 1836, but they have already held successful botanical pub quizzes and members enjoyed a visit to RBG Kew (with a behind-the-scenes tour of the herbarium). They are also active on Facebook and on Twitter, and are doing a great job inspiring and encouraging other plant science students to set up their own botanical societies. 

So it will be great to meet the OBBS team in person at the Exhibition Meeting in just eleven days time. Are you joining us there? If you haven't booked yet, here's the link

Wednesday 9 November 2016

'The botanist'

To cheer us all up on a grey day, here is an image taken by eminent weed scientist Stephen Moss of an exhibit seen in a museum in Newfoundland. 

He sent it to Ian Denholm, Chair of BSBI's Meetings & Communications Committee and Editor-in-Chief of New Journal of Botany, who thought News & Views readers might appreciate it. 

Thanks Ian!

Image: S. Moss

Sunday 6 November 2016

BSBI Plant Study Grant helps Josh survey woodland plants

Image: J. Styles
BSBI's Training Team does an amazing job supporting our next generation of botanists. One of the ways they do this is by providing an annual round of Plant Study Grants and Training Grants. 

So we are delighted to invite recipients of such grants to share their stories here on the BSBI's News & Views pages. It's great to hear about what courses people signed up for, or the fieldwork they were able to carry out, as a result of their BSBI grant. Here's Josh's story:  

"Beginning with my wildflower garden at the early age of 12 was when I started to see plants in a totally different light – that these organisms underpin life for the immense diversity of invertebrate and vertebrate pollinators, herbivores, predators and parasites. 

Wild garlic
Image: J. Styles
Plants were amazing and every new one I saw I wanted to know what it was and what role that species played in its ecosystem. 

As this passion grew, I engaged in more voluntary work and began my life as a local wildlife sites surveyor at the age of 17, and at the age of 21 gained a level 5 in my BSBI Field Studies Certificate (FISC). My hope is that from this passion, next year at graduation will come a botany-centric ecologist role somewhere in Britain.

During the second year of my BSc Ecology degree at Edge Hill University, I chose to do my dissertation topic on the ancient woodland indicator species within South Lancashire (vice county 59). 

Bluebell and Stitchwort
Image: J. Styles
All woodland sites, most especially ancient woods, were absolutely spectacular through the survey season between March and August. 

I saw some amazing sites, including a surprising patch of Sanicle Sanicula europaea in one of the ancient woodland sites in Rufford, with other beauties such as the carpets of strongly scented Wild garlic Allium ursinum and Bluebell Hyacinthoides non-scripta

Image: J. Styles
After surveying was complete I used indicator species analysis on species data for all woodland sites and found 19 indicator species which included species such as Moschatel Adoxa moschatellina, Wood-sorrel Oxalis acetosella, Soft shield-fern Polystichum setiferum and Wood millet Milium effusum

You can see the table of indicator species here.

To feasibly do this study, I needed to compare ancient and secondary woodlands across the county which would realistically cost me a lot on travel expenses as I do not own a car. 

Josh giving a presentation on his survey work
Image courtesy of J. Styles
At this point I applied for a plant studies grant from the BSBI for which I was granted £250. 

This gave me a ginormous helping hand in my investigation allowing me to take trains, buses and taxis to appropriate survey sites. 

I also received a big helping hand from the Edge Hill University biology department providing occasional transport to sites.

I feel absolutely privileged to have received support from the BSBI that has enabled me to do a large proportion of my study that I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to do and have seen some absolutely spectacular woodlands, whilst improving my ID skills of vascular and non-vascular plants along the way. 

Soft Shield-fern
Image: J. Styles
I doubt the memories of the myriads of fantastically diverse plants will dissipate anytime soon!"

Great to hear about the fieldwork Josh was able to carry out as a result of his BSBI Plant Study Grant - many thanks to Josh for sharing his story. We've invited him to have an exhibit at the BSBI Exhibition Meeting on 26th November, so if you'd like to come along and hear more, you'll want to book here!

Friday 4 November 2016

Videos for botanists

 Beverley Glover talks to Richard West and
Philip Oswald at Peter Sell's memorial.
Image: Lynne Farrell 
As autumn draws on, it's good to have a few indoor botanical treats in the pipeline for rainy days when you really don't feel like venturing outdoors. So my eye was caught by a recent email from colleagues at the University of Leeds. 

They were announcing a series of botanical videos made available under the Plant Science TREE initiative*. The videos are of lectures by eminent botanists and are aimed at undergraduates in biological sciences, but I think most keen botanists would find them of interest. 

Two names that jumped out at me were Prof Beverley Glover (University of Cambridge) whose lecture on flowering plant diversity is available here. If you want to know about iridescent petals or buzz-pollination of Bittersweet, do give it a go.

Sandy Knapp is astonished by Roger Horton's
'Fooled by Babington' exhibit!
BSBI Exhibition Meeting 2015
Image: Waheed Arshad 
I'm also delighted to see that Dr Sandy Knapp's tour de force lecture from 2010 on Understanding Plant Diversity is available here

She is an amazing communicator and has the knack of making science sound like great fun and really exciting (which of course it is!). 

Sandy is also a BSBI member and it will be great to catch up with her at this year's BSBI Annual Exhibition Meeting, where she will be presenting the Engler Silver Medal to the co-authors of the Hybrid Flora of the British Isles on behalf of the International Association of Plant Taxonomy.

BSBI Exhibition Meeting 2015
Held at the Natural History Museum, London
Image: Sandy Knapp
If you haven't yet booked for the Exhibition Meeting, please do so as soon as possible. It's on Saturday 26th November at CEH Wallingford, it's free and it's open to BSBI members and non-members alike

You'll be able to talk to lots of BSBI botanists including Sandy, but meanwhile you can at least watch her on video!      

*The Plant Science TREE was developed by University of Leeds with funding from the Gatsby Charitable Foundation, and the videos were filmed over several years at Gatsby Plant Science Summer Schools. They are an excellent resource for biology undergraduates and anyone who wants to learn more about botany.