Monday, 10 March 2014

BSBI supports the Young Darwins

We've already heard from Sue Townsend about how BSBI has been working with the Field Studies Council again this year to support the next generation of scientists via the Young Darwin Scholarship. Now Cathy Preston at FSC has sent us this account, written by one of those Young Darwins. It makes inspiring reading... 

Young Darwins at Stiperstones
Image: courtesy of FSC
<<Amy was one of our first Young Darwin Scholars in 2012. After the introductory residential in August 2012 she wrote: "Before going to Shrewsbury for the Young Darwin Scholarship, I had little idea of what I wanted to specialise in, in the future, but I knew I had a strong interest in animals and looking after the environment. We had inspirational talks from professionals of different areas, gained experience in catching and identifying different animals from insects to amphibians, reptiles and mammals and identifying plants and lichen. I overcame slight fears, had lots of fun and I want to keep in touch with all the friends I made.  I also now have a much better idea of what I want to do as a future career. It has been one of the best experiences of my life, and I’d definitely recommend it!"


Young Darwins out walking
Image: courtesy of FSC
In 2013 Amy volunteered at FSC Margam in South Wales and the Young Darwin Scholarship provided a subsidy for her to attend a Vegetative Plant Identification Course at the beginning of September. She said "‘I decided to attend the Vegetative Plant Identification course at Margam Discovery Centre because I will be studying Zoology this year and I know that to understand animals, I need to know about their habitats and food. I enjoyed learning about how to use the Vegetative Key to the British Flora (by John Poland & Eric Clement) and successfully identified plants when working alone and with others, despite previously having very little experience in identification of plants before the course."   Amy is now in her first year studying Zoology at the University of Exeter.>>

It's a shame that Amy and the other 16 and 17 year old Young Darwins would have been unable to even consider studying for a BSc in Botany at the University of Anywhere in Britain, although there are still undergraduate courses with at least some botany on the menu and NUI Galway offers this BSc in Botany and Plant Science. Maybe a bunch of botanically-enthused Young Darwins can demonstrate demand for a BSc in Botany, and so make supply in Britain more likely? 

So, many thanks to Cathy for telling us more about the Young Darwin Scholarship. She emailed "We are really grateful for the support BSBI have offered FSC for the Young Darwin Scholarship again this year". I hope you agree that this is the sort of thing to which BSBI should be actively contributing, and three cheers to BSBI's Training & Education Committee, especially Sue and Sarah, for all their hard work on this initiative. It sounds as though we've helped one undergraduate make a start with Plant ID and - as Amy points out - if you want to understand animals, you need to know about their habitats and food, and that means knowing your plants!