Thursday, 21 November 2013

Plants - Publicity - People: the theme for this year's AEM. 

Field meeting to Coronation Meadows, Beaumaris
Image: T. Rich
The final programme is now available for this Saturday's AEM, where botanists will be offered a range of talks and presentations on our theme of Plants - Publicity - People.

We have three presentations by BSBI staff (Irish Officer Maria Long, Head of Ops Jane Houldsworth, and me), and a talk by our President, Ian Denholm, who tells me he will be focusing on "plants rather than people - and I have lots of great wild flower photos!" Ian has been on quite a few BSBI fieldtrips this year - like the ones following this summer's AGM in Beaumaris. Attending our fieldtrips is probably the best way for a botanist to see some really nice and unusual plants - and in great company.

BSBI at the NHM Campsite, October 2012
Photos: L. Marsh
The after-lunch speakers include Jill Sutcliffe (BSBI Field Meetings Secretary) on the work of the Manhood Wildlife and Heritage Group, with which she is involved. This looks like an excellent example of outreach at a local scale, so it will be interesting to find out what they are doing, ie to hear Jill's good ideas and pinch them shamelessly for our own local initiatives! 

Our speakers are all BSBI members, but the final two talks are offered by members "wearing other hats" - both speakers will consider how conservation bodies and natural history societies like BSBI can help people re-connect with the natural world, learn more about botany and get started with biological recording. 

I've already posted about our closing speaker, Brian Eversham, but before him we will be able to hear John Tweddle, Head of the Angela Marmont Centre at the Natural History Museum and OPAL Project Manager. He will be talking about public engagement at the NHM: they are particularly good at this so it will be interesting to find out how they do it. And, of course, nick all their best ideas for BSBI.  

These snaps (taken on phone, sorry!) show the BSBI stand at last autumn's 'Campsite' event at the Angela Marmont Centre, designed to engage young recorders. 

Three of us collected specimens of duckweeds for ID by the children, using the excellent duckweed ID sheets prepared jointly by BSBI and NHM. I'll bring some of these laminated sheets along to the AEM so you can all have one - they really are rather good, whatever your age. 
Dactylorhiza - species or hybrid?
 Ask the orchid referee!
Image: I. Denholm

We also exhibited some conifers, so people could 'scratch and sniff' using the John Poland 'which tropical fruit does it smell like' method of ID: find out more about this on John's Vegetative ID table at Saturday's AEM. The children attending the NHM event that day were able to see the biggest plants in the world (giant redwoods) and the smallest: Wolffia arrhiza, the Rootless Duckweed. 

There were quite a few "wow" moments as they looked down a microscope for the first time or held a jar of duckweeds up to the light to count the roots. So, fingers crossed we can also offer you a few "wow" moments on Saturday, whatever your age.

Here's a pretty flower to close with - just to remind ourselves why we're bothering with all this outreach business. In the end, to paraphrase Bill Clinton, "It's all about the botany, stupid!"