Wednesday 31 October 2018

Behind the scenes at Edge Hill University

Students in the lab at Edge Hill University
Bookings are flooding in for the BSBI Annual Exhibition Meeting which this year will be held at Edge Hill University in Lancashire. As well as all the speakers, exhibits, pop-up natural history bookshops, plant ID table, chance to network... we are also offering guided tours behind the scenes. If you'd like to see Edge Hill University's newly opened, state-of-the-art £13 million lab facilities, this is your chance. 

Visitors will be offered the chance to join guided tours (if pre-booked) to visit the DNA, microbiology and cell culture facilities plus the recently developed plant physiology research lab. The Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) will also be up and running with some plant material available to view. 

Botanists at the 2017 BSBI Exhibition
 Meeting at NHM London
Image: J. Mitchley
In case you're wondering why we decided to hold the Annual Exhibition Meeting (AEM) at Edge Hill University this year: there are two reasons. Some members had pointed out that recent AEMs have been in the south-eastern half of the country (CEH Wallingford in Oxfordshire, the Natural History Museum in London, the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridgeshire and University of Leicester) and BSBI does try to serve the needs of all its members. 

But also, Prof Paul Ashton, Head of Biology at Edge Hill University and Chair of BSBI's Training & Education Committee, gave us the heads-up on some important information last year, just as we were considering various venues across England. 

University of Edge Hill biology students - in
 the field as well as in the lab!
Over to Paul: “Biology at Edge Hill University covers the full range of the subject with degrees from the molecular through to the ecological, and botany has always been a part of the department as we have maintained traditional skills in identification and field work. Adding the modern molecular side to that approach is allowing us to develop a degree in Plant Sciences, which will have its first intake in autumn 2018”. 

On behalf of Edge Hill University, Paul then offered to host the AEM, giving Edge Hill University students a chance to strut their botanical stuff and giving BSBI a chance to show our long history of support for the next generation of botanists.

Paul checking out a range of plant ID
resources: at Training the Trainers 2017
Image: L. Marsh 
Paul added "While the labs are available for viewing, AEM attendees will also hear about some of the findings that work in the lab has revealed. This includes Elizabeth Sullivan's work on connectivity across the landscape revealed by genetic analysis of yellow rattle and Carl Barker's work on patterns of  genetic variation in small leaved lime. Both Carl and Elizabeth have been recipients of BSBI funding in the past".

Other members of BSBI's Training Team will also be present at the Exhibition Meeting so if you are thinking of learning more about botany - whether you're contemplating an undergraduate or MSc degree, looking for a weekend wildflower course or wondering where you can pick up plant ID tips on social media - you'll find a range of brains to pick and helpful people to chat to. 

The exhibition hall at the 2017 Exhibition Meeting
Image: L. Marsh
Head over to the Exhibition Meeting webpage and book your space now - it's completely free and we'd love to see you Edge Hill University on Saturday 17th November. 

And if you'd like to put your name down for a guided tour behind the scenes at Edge Hill University, please do so quickly before all the spaces are snapped up!

Tuesday 30 October 2018

Launching British & Irish Botany

After months of preparation, the new platform for BSBI members and fellow botanists to publish their research is finally here! The website for British & Irish Botany is here, it's live and we are open for submissions - in fact there are five submissions already in the pipeline from authors who just couldn't wait!

British & Irish Botany (B&IB to its friends - we are confident there will soon be many!) is the replacement for New Journal of Botany which ceased publication at the end of 2017. Our new publication is open access: free to publish in, free to view and it will be accessible to everyone, not just BSBI members. We listened to what you said you didn't like about New Journal of Botany and we've tried to come up with a replacement that will better suit your requirements.

New Journal of Botany (NJB) had much to recommend it but several factors prevented it from being the success we had hoped for, perhaps the main two being fewer submissions from academic botanists (because there are fewer academic botanists around and huge pressure on those still active to publish in a journal with a high Impact Factor) and a submission system that many of you found unnecessarily convoluted and time-consuming, again resulting in fewer submissions. 

So with British & Irish Botany (B&IB) we've gone for the most user-friendly submission system possible and a very short set of author guidelines! You can just upload a Word doc with some jpegs already embedded in it if you like. And if that still sounds like too much of a faff, you can just send the submission to us and we'll do everything for you. We is Editor-in-Chief Ian Denholm and me, Louise Marsh, as Editorial Assistant, supported by an Editorial Team. Here's an idea of the sort of submissions we're interested in

Ian gave a talk about B&IB to BSBI's Publications Committee earlier this month and then he gave the same talk to delegates at BSBI's Recorders Conference. You can download a pdf of Ian's talk here and it's also on the Recorders' Conference webpage. When he reached slide number 18 there were audible gasps and mutterings of "Really?" and "But how..." Yes, it's absolutely true: each year, B&IB will cost us less than 12% of what we were paying annually for NJB, at least in its early years. That's a lot of money than can be re-directed to those projects which the recent BSBI review told us our members thought were important. So you should all get the kind of journal you've told us you want for much less financial outlay and much less bother for authors. 

You will need to register before you can submit or review a paper or read any of the content. The registration process is quick and painless, takes about five minutes and you can put 'none' in the affiliation box if that suits you best. You are asked to agree to the Privacy Statement, where we promise that we will never make your details available for any non-journal purpose or pass it on to any third party; then you are asked if you'd like to be notified whenever a paper or issue is published or the journal wants to announce something. We're not planning to make a whole lot of announcements so you can opt out of that. 

Once you've registered you can change your mind and opt out of notifications if you prefer. And if you hit any problems that our extensive testing didn't flag up, just email us at and we'll try to sort it out for you. 

We'll keep you posted on these pages when the first paper is published and we hope to have an issue published by the end of the year. Watch this space and keep an eye on the B&IB website!  

Thursday 25 October 2018

Changing of the guard at BSBI's Publications Committee

Chris Boon (on left) & Pubs' Chair John Poland
Image: L. Marsh 
BSBI's Publications Committee met in London earlier this month and it was a bittersweet occasion. We were welcoming three new members - that was the sweet bit - but three long-standing and much-loved members didn't attend the committee meeting, having decided to stand down.

Chris Boon, who is still joint County Recorder for Bedfordshire, was the editor of the BSBI Viola Handbook and served at various times over the years as either Secretary or Chair of Publications Committee, emailed back in March that he would prefer to stand down.

Cambridgeshire botanist Philip Oswald also announced at the last committee meeting that he would prefer to stand down - he's been threatening to do so for some years and I will admit to having twisted his arm quite shamelessly to keep him on the committee for as long as possible! 

Philip (centre) & co-author Chris Preston
receive the Thackray Medal
Image courtesy of P. Oswald
Philip has featured on these pages in recent years as a friend of Peter Sell and was involved in seeing volumes 1 and 2 of 'Sell & Murrell' through to press following Peter's sad death in 2013

Philip also translated and co-authored (with Chris Preston) John Ray's Cambridge Catalogue, for which he and Chris received the Thackray Medal in 2013; he oversaw all the Latin translations of descriptions of new species in New Journal of Botany; he wrote a very useful review of wildflower ID books in print for the highly-respected periodical Taxon and then very kindly offered it for the BSBI's Get Involved webpage to help beginner botanists decide which ID book to buy - Philip's review is now one of the most popular downloads from the BSBI website; he also contributed to the New Year Plant Hunt, was a supporter of, and a contributor to, this News & Views blog from its early days, advised Publications Committee on many issues from copyright to use of images.... and these are just a few of the things I know about Philip's achievements in recent years!

Arthur (in red scarf) after a Pubs' meeting in 2014
Image: L. Marsh
Also standing down at the last committee meeting was Arthur Chater and it's hard for me to think of Arthur without Philip and vice versa. Arthur was County Recorder for Cardiganshire for many years and his 2010 Flora of Cardiganshire raised the bar for all subsequent county Floras. A champion of herbaria, Arthur's 'Collecting and Pressing Specimens', available to download via the BSBI Resources page, is still the best guide around to preparing a herbarium specimen. 

Arthur has also been a regular at BSBI Recorders' Conferences and Exhibition Meetings, taken part in New Year Plant Hunts and, like Philip, has been a staunch supporter of this News & Views blog from its inception. I'm delighted that Arthur and Philip have agreed to continue as corresponding members of the committee for a little longer, so we can still consult them but they aren't expected to travel to London just for committee meetings.

James admits he's more of a birder than a botanist...
So he had to check out the ring-necked
parakeets in Hyde Park before coming to Pubs!
Image courtesy of J. Common
Our three new members of Publications Committee (Pubs to its friends) are at earlier stages in their careers and, while they may not yet have chalked up as many illustrious achievements as Chris, Philip and Arthur, they have already made an impression in the botanical world!

James Common joins Pubs fresh from his triumph as founder of New Nature magazine, launched last year and attracting thousands of downloads each month from young naturalists. You have to be under 30 to write for New Nature and we are delighted that, because BSBI is attracting more young members than ever before, we now have a regular column in New Nature. You can download your copy here (it's aimed at under-30s but can also be downloaded by the young at heart!) - the September issue featured Jessica Hamilton talking about her BSBIKerry group and the November issue will feature.... ah I'll let you find that out for yourselves! James also handles comms for the Natural History Society of Northumbria.

Jerry wowing the audience at the
Recorders' Conference about GIS
Image: D. Alston 
The second new member of Pubs was Notts. botanist Jerry Clough who joins us as 'Mr Apps & Maps'! He provided the excellent map on the new Co. Antrim webpage which shows total species recorded in each hectad. 

Jerry is also a bit of a QGIS whizz-kid - his presentation on 'QGIS for recorders', at the recent BSBI Recorders' Conference, proved so popular that we had to find an extra classroom so he could offer follow-up one-to-one sessions after the talk! You can download Jerry's presentation from the Recorders' Conference webpage.

Ciara at the 2017 New Year
Plant Hunt in Leicester
Image: K. Akkerman
The last but not least new member of Pubs is Ciara Sugrue, who is currently studying for a PhD at Univ. Loughborough, where her research investigates the sensitivity of coastal wetland plants to climate change and eutrophication. 

Ciara joined the New Year Plant Hunt Support Team last year and impressed everyone with her efficiency, friendliness and excellent communications skills. She and fellow Loughborough student Ellen Goddard have gone on to volunteer with me under the 'BSBI Comms Team' banner and frankly I can't imagine life without them now! 

They have both joined BSBI's Meetings & Communications Committee, have helped organise both the recent Recorders' Conference and the forthcoming Annual Exhibition Meeting, have blogged and written articles about BSBI and they appeared on BBC Countryfile in January promoting the New Year Plant Hunt. Ciara also finds time to run the very successful BSBI Instagram account which is helping us reach new audiences. 

Some of Pubs' members in the pub after Pubs:
From left: Louise, BSBI President Chris Metherell, 

Pubs' Chair John Poland, Prof Paul Ashton 
(also Chair of Training Committee), Jerry, James, 
Ciara & Chair of Trustees Ian Denholm
Pubs' members, new and old, retired to the pub after the committee meeting, as is our wont, and we were all delighted when Arthur arrived to join us for dinner - and no doubt to give the new members the once-over and see if they passed muster! I'm glad to say that they did. 

Now we just need to coax Philip down from Cambridge for dinner and then we'll have the best of both worlds, the old and the new!

Monday 22 October 2018

Byron's Gin supporting BSBI's Training Programme II

BSBI's Training & Education Committee met in Shrewsbury last Thursday and one of the first items on the agenda was... Byron's Gin! 

This was not simply because members of the committee enjoy a glass or two of Byron's Gin of an evening (although we have evidence that they do - see below!) but because for every bottle of gin that is sold our friends at Speyside Distillery, who produce Byron's Gin, make a contribution to BSBI's Training programme, which allows us to offer grants to budding botanists and help them improve their ID skills.  

I was able to point the committee members to the list of monthly blogposts on the BSBI's Byron's Gin webpage, which include accounts on some of the botanicals used in Byron's Gin, as well as posts about some of the awards that Byron's Gin has already notched up in its first year of production. 

Mark (centre) helps fellow botanists work
through how to identify the many trees
found at FSC Preston Montford
Image: L. Marsh
As committee Chair Paul Ashton was unable to attend, the meeting was chaired by the excellent Mark Duffell, fresh from his recent triumph at the BSBI Recorders' Conference at FSC Preston Montford, where - as well as leading a very successful workshop in identifying alien aquatics - Mark was responsible for much of the smooth running of the conference as he took charge of uploading presentations, allocating the best classroom for each of the many workshops... lots of little things that make all the difference between an ok conference and a very successful one! 

But on Thursday, Mark presided over the discussions around all aspects of the Training & Education committee's business: next year's training grants and conference bursaries; volunteering opportunities offered by BSBI; support for the Young Darwin Scholarships; the progress of Identiplant (the online course supported by BSBI and the Field Studies Council); and a proposed booklet of protocols for running Field Identification Skills Certificates

Jonathan Mitchley tells delegates at the
2018 Recorders' Conference about the
Plants United initiative
Image: L. Marsh
The committee also discussed ideas under the Plants United banner which were the subject of a presentation by Jonathan Mitchley at the Recorders' Conference. If you'd like to find out more about this initiative (still in the early stages of planning) you can download Jonathan's presentation from the Recorders' Conference webpage.

All in all a very worthwhile afternoon looking at ways in which BSBI's Training & Education Committee, with a little help from Byron's Gin, can help support and train the next generation of botanists.

I'll leave the last word to Sarah Whild, who chaired the Training & Education Committee for many years, is the driving force behind the Field Identification Skills Certificate and is known to be a connoisseur of "mother's ruin":

The bird cherry is really lovely - and makes a donation to training for every bottle sold - get your orders in!

Saturday 20 October 2018

BSBI Recorders' Conference 2018: a huge success!

Fred Rumsey's Duckweed ID workshop
Image: L. Marsh
Last weekend saw 69 botanists assembled at FSC Preston Montford in Shropshire for the 2018 BSBI Recorders' Conference to enjoy 11 talks, 13 workshops/ drop-in sessions, a field session to road test John Poland's forthcoming Field Key to Winter Twigs and a pop-up bookshop from Summerfield Books

If you head over to the Recorders' Conference webpage, you can download pdfs of nine of the eleven talks - not quite the same as being there but an enjoyable glimpse into what went on and there are some great links and helpful tips in the pdfs! 

There are also five workshop hand-outs available on the page, and more to come. The three hand-outs from expert botanist Tim Rich (author of the celebrated Plant Crib) are particularly useful, covering an introduction to collecting and identifying dandelions, and introductions to dandelion sections and dandelion characters. 

Ken Adams talking about creating ID resources
Image: L. Marsh
Feedback from the delegates suggests that, while they enjoyed all the talks and workshops, there were a few particular favourites: Ken Adams on ID resources, Tim Rich on Gentians and Geoffrey Hall on 'Citizen Science: dealing with the deluge' were among the most popular talks.

Of the workshops, David Earl on brambles, John Poland's twig ID sessions, Matt Parratt on Abies and Geoffrey Kitchener on Docks were singled out, with one delegate commenting "Geoffrey Kitchener's Docks workshop was the best workshop I have ever attended". 

Geoffrey Kitchener's Rumex workshop
Image: L. Marsh
There were also several mentions of Sue Townsend's "warm style and great chairing" as at the end of each day she pulled together threads from the day's talks and helped us look at how we might progress some of the ideas discussed. I couldn't agree more, Sue gave us masterclasses in how to chair a conference, even though 'Sue's masterclass' doesn't appear as an item on the programme! 

David Morris, County Recorder for  Oxfordshire, attended the Recorders' Conference and has written a short account of it for his blog which really captures the flavour of the event: click here to read David's report.

You can also get a good flavour of the conference by clicking on the #BSBIRecordersConference hashtag, where several delegates shared their thoughts on the weekend - and some great photos! 

I particularly liked these two tweets from people who couldn't make it along to Shropshire:

Replying to   and 
Wish I was there. Please keep tweeting so I can join in electronically!

IDing twigs with John Poland - in the rain!
Tim Rich looking very cool (and dry) under
a colourful umberella - wise man ;-)
Image: C. Sugrue
Delegates to the conference have already suggested a few workshops they'd like us to run next time: non-aquatic aliens; willows; brassicas; Fumaria spp.; sedges; 
Polygonum; the mechanics of recording... 

So it looks like we already have a draft programme for the next Recorders' Conference, scheduled for spring 2020! 

We'll post details of the venue and the date on the Recorders' Conference webpage nearer the time but meanwhile, if you have suggestions for an ID workshop you'd like us to put on, just email and we'll add your idea to the list.        

Monday 1 October 2018

BSBI membership: 15 months of benefits for the price of 12 months!

If you haven't yet joined BSBI but you have been mulling it over and wondering whether or not it will be good value for money, and what benefits you can expect once you've joined, this month's special offer should interest you.

The first bit of good news is that BSBI  membership is still £30 per year (38 euros if you are based in the Republic of Ireland) - once again this year, we haven't increased the subscription. 

If you are under 21, or in full-time education and under 25, you can benefit from our heavily-subsidised student rate of just £12 (15 euros): we want to give our next generation botanists as big a helping hand as possible!

The next bit of good news is that if you join today (or any time for the rest of this year), once you've paid your annual subscription for 2019, your membership starts at once! So you could enjoy 15 months of benefits for the cost of 12 months. You wouldn't need to pay again until January 2020.

Now about those benefits: you get three print copies each year of BSBI News, our very popular membership newsletter. You get access to all the papers published in New Journal of Botany, our scientific journal which ran from 2011 to the end of last year. You'll be able to find out about its replacement, British & Irish Botany, on these pages later this month, so watch this space.

Next, you'll have access to our network of 100+ expert plant referees who can advise you on the identification of the trickiest of plants. Two of those referees deal only with enquiries from beginners, so whatever your skill level, you will benefit from access to the referees. 

We never share contact details of those referees with non-members - very occasionally we may name one or two in public, with their permission, but that's all! - but once you have joined you will receive a print copy of the BSBI Yearbook with full contact details for all of them and guidance on how to send any of them live or pressed plant material or photographs.

You will also have access to the password-protected members-only area of the BSBI website, where you will find resources such as: 
  • electronic versions of BSBI News going back for the past four years; 
  • an index to back issues of BSBI News so you can easily find articles published on any given plant species or other botanical subject; 
  • an electronic version of the BSBI Yearbook so it's even easier for you to get hold of referees and County Recorders
  • the BSBI membership list so you can find fellow members in your area (if they have agreed to share those details); 
  • a link through to the password-protected BSBI Governance website so you can see the deliberations of BSBI's Council and all its committees
  • you'll be offered ways to take part in BSBI consultations and reviews on next steps within the society; 
  • and of course you will be eligible to vote in our Annual General Meeting
BSBI is a society led by its members, for its members!

As a member, you'll benefit from special offers on publications and events - we give you advance notice of forthcoming BSBI events, conferences and meetings (most are open to all but some are members-only, or members have priority booking). 

You will also be able to save even more money on BSBI books and other selected titles. There are pre-publication offers on BSBI titles such as Threatened Plants in Britain and Ireland (members saved £5 on this title) and The Discovery of the Native Flora of Britain & Ireland (members saved £6 on this title); and there are pre-publication offers on BSBI Handbooks, such as the recent Eyebright Handbook (members saved £4.50 on this title). 

As a BSBI member you can benefit from special offers on BSBI titles and other selected titles sold by our bookseller, Summerfield Books. They are currently advertising 44 different titles in the BSBI members section. As an example, they are currently offering Rose & O'Reilly's Wildflower Key at £20 - a very popular title if you are keen to get involved with plant ID

If you're planning to apply for a BSBI training grant (they open on 1st January each year and you can apply for up to £250 towards a training course) - you don't have to be a BSBI member but, as the Training page makes clear, "members are favoured if there is competition for grants". And I've never known a year when there wasn't competition for grants! 

Finally, you'll have the option of applying for some of the great volunteering opportunities we offer - most of them are only available to BSBI members.

So, you get great reading material, access to the country's top botanists for ID help and advice, you get to shape the society's future and you get to save money on books. You also have the pleasure of supporting BSBI's important work and helping us further our aims

And if you join in October, you will be paying just £2 per month for all those benefits until the end of next year! 

Head over to our membership subscription page to see the various ways to pay and what you can expect to find in your membership welcome pack. We look forward to welcoming you as a fellow BSBI member!

PS If you're already a BSBI member, why not forward a link to this blogpost to any friend(s) or colleague(s) who you think might enjoy enjoy becoming a member?