Tuesday, 28 April 2015

BSBI News: a bumper issue!

The April issue of BSBI News is being mailed out today to all our members and it's a bumper 92 page issue. I've been reading a proof copy which Gwynn and Trevor very kindly forwarded and I simply can't keep quiet about some of the great articles in there... So here's a spoiler alert. If you don't want to know what will be in the April issue, then look away now. 

BSBI News #129 front cover: the montage of
plants in flower at Glengarriff Nature Reserve,
County Cork, during the New Year Plant Hunt
Image courtesy of Glengarriff Nature Reserve
There is a nice mixture in BSBI News of the historic and the 21st century. So you can read about Ireland's 'first woman botanist', the first record of a Sundew from the 16th century or the Georgian botanist after whom a pub is named. Then come bang-up-to-date to read about new opportunities for citizen scientists, whether you want to record the dates when orchids come into flower, or where the signs of ozone damage can be seen or maybe you would rather take part in the new National Plant Monitoring Scheme (NPMS). 
Two of our eminent botanists challenge us to think again: Michael Braithwaite asks what BSBI's role should be in the conservation of botanically-rich roadside verges and Richard Bateman considers several citizen science projects and asks if BSBI is handing over its "crown jewels in return for at best a modicum of publicity". 

There is a fascinating report from Jim McIntosh on highest altitudes of British & Irish plants based on recent work in Perthshire, Andy Amphlett reports on his survey work in the Cairngorms and Phil Smith demonstrates the usefulness of the England Red List to wildlife conservation.

Robert Pocock, botanist, as seen in a local pub!
Image courtesy of R. Burton
For regular readers of News & Views, a few items will be familiar, such as the report on the New Year Plant Hunt, but most of the contents will either be brand new or will expand on what you have already seen here. And there are some great flyers tucked inside News, including one for the NPMS, one for the Summer Meeting in Northern Ireland and one especially for bird-lovers

There is also a flyer for the new Hybrid Flora, by Clive Stace, Chris Preston and David Pearman, with an astoundingly good pre-publication offer. You can save a whopping £19 (that's not a typo, that's £19!) by filling in the form which is available only inside the latest copy of BSBI News and posting it to Gwynn Ellis, who is both BSBI's Membership Secretary and General Editor of BSBI News (Trevor James is Receiving Editor). Don't forget to put your membership number on the form. And save £19! 

Of course, if you are not (yet) a BSBI member, this short post will be all that you get to see of BSBI News #129 until it shows up here on the archive page, but that might take a few years. So, if you want to start receiving the first of your three annual issues of BSBI News, and three issues each year of New Journal of Botany, and the BSBI Yearbook with contact details for more than 100 specialist referees who can help you identify tricky plants, and all the other benefits of membership, such as priority booking on our programme of field meetings and discounted offers on selected botany books such as the amazing £19 off the cost of the Hybrid Flora... well, you'll just have to head over to this page and part with £30 for a year's membership of BSBI. And remember - if you are under 21, or under 25 and in full-time education, then you only pay £12 per year as a junior member. That's only £1 per month!

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Irish Members' Conference 2015

Embedded image permalink
A great chance to network
Image: C. Metherell
This year's BSBI Irish Members' Conference was held in Dublin yesterday, and proved to be yet another triumph for Maria Long, BSBI's Irish Officer, who organised the event along with Micheline Sheehy-Skeffington

A morning of talks was followed by an afternoon of workshops, and social media have been buzzing with images and tweets about the day. Mairead Crawford and Oisin Duffy - who featured on these pages earlier this year when Oisin's image of a Daisy won the prize for First Plant Photographed in the New Year Plant Hunt - offered a presentation on recording challenges in East Donegal H34. This guest blogpost by Oisin tells you a bit more about the recording that he and Mairead have been doing in East Donegal, while this tweet and photo from Friday shows that they had really done their prep for the Conference: 

All set and ready to go for the Members Conference tomorrow!
  Embedded image permalink

Afterwards, Mairead tweeted:

Had a great time at the Irish members conference yesterday. did an amazing job organising it! :)

Fiona MacGowan at the IMC
Image: O. Duffy
There were also talks by Faith Wilson on Irish wetland surveys, Fiona MacGowan on botanical adventures in the unsung Midlands, George Smith on diversity in Irish woodlands, a fern workshop by Paula O'Meara and Rory Hodd (of Galway Botanic Garden fame), a workshop by Cilian Roden on Irish lake plants... 

Faith Wilson at the IMC
Image: O. Duffy
And of course the whole day was a great chance for people to chat and network. Ciaran Byrne's tweet made me laugh - he and Maria Long have been exchanging pictures for a while via social media of plants coming into flower in Ireland, and apparently when they finally met in person at the Conference, Maria said "I know you from the internet!" 

BSBI President Ian Denholm was at the Conference too. He attends nearly all our big meetings across Britain and Ireland (at his own expense) and always seems to have his finger on the society's pulse. Well today I can offer you proof that, while Ian doesn't miss much, he does not literally have eyes in the back of his head! 

The images above and left show Ian taking photos of the various speakers and in the process being captured by Oisin, who was sitting behind him and was also taking photos of the event!

The next big event in Ireland is the Annual Summer Meeting in June, when you too could have a chance to photograph the back of the presidential head and some rather nice plants as well. Head over to this page to book and to check out the outline programme - details of fieldtrips are already up and details of speakers will be posted soon.  

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

New Journal of Botany: April issue gone to press

The April issue of New Journal of Botany has gone to press and should be available on-line and posted to members before the end of the month, but I thought you might like a sneak preview. You may want to set aside a few hours to read this new issue, because it features seven papers as well as four Book Reviews and eight pages of Plant Records

Fruits of two Geum parents and a hybrid
Image: M. Wilcox
There is also a brand new cover for 2015, curated by Claudia Ferguson-Smyth, whose own wild flower images have graced previous NJB covers. This time round, Claudia has chosen prize-winning images from a selection submitted to the recent BSBI photographic competition

It's so tempting to "leak" one of the images here - three of them are very vibrant, a departure from the cool colours Claudia used on 2014's cover - but I think that would spoil the surprise. So you'll just have to wait a few more days!

SEMs of a familiar Carex sp. Read NJB 5.1 to find out which
Image: Proctor & Bradshaw
As for contents, we have a paper by Keith Kirby, who was a co-author (with Rob Marrs et al.) on one of the most frequently downloaded NJB papers 'Native dominants in British woodland'. Keith's new paper is about vegetation changes in clear fells and closed-canopy stands in an English woodland over a 30 year period. There is also a paper by Mike Wilcox describing a new Geum hybrid from England, and the fourth in our series of scanning electron micrographs of leaves of British Carex species. 

I could go on, but I think you'd rather have some nice surprises to look forward to when you open your copy of NJB 5.1. Not too much longer to wait!

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Bookings now open for BSBI Annual Summer Meeting 2015!

Giant's Causeway, one of the fieldtrip locations
Image: J. Faulkner
If you've never been to one of BSBI's Annual Summer Meetings, maybe this is the year to give it a go? And if you have, you're probably already itching to find out more about this year's event and how you can book for it.

The Annual Summer Meeting (ASM) moves around the country, so last year's event was held in Scotland and if you click here, you can read the ninth in a series of blogposts about the fieldtrips, the talks and the plants. 

Honckenya peploides at the Giant's Causeway on shingle
which is a mixture of dark basalt and pale limestone.
Image: J. Faulkner
In 2013, the ASM was held in Beaumaris in North Wales and although the News & Views blog was only a few months old at that point, I did post here, here and here about the people who attended and some of the plants that we saw. In those days, it was called the AGM because we had to miss out on a bit of field time to sit indoors and vote on things like who gets to sit on Council, but nowadays we save those delights for the AEM in November ;-)

Apologies that there are no posts about the 2012 ASM. It was an excellent 2-day event, held at the University of Reading, but this was a few days before I became BSBI's Publicity & Outreach Officer, so you'll just have to use your imagination about what went on! There are no photographs available and I couldn't possibly comment on any of the unsubstantiated rumours...

A Fragrant Orchid, subspecies uncertain.
Image: J. Faulkner
This year, the ASM will be held in Northern Ireland from 12th-16th June and you can see the flyer for the event on this shiny new webpage. We hope that we've made it easier than ever to book and there is also a new Gmail account asm2015@bsbi.org so you can just send us an email if you have any questions. 

Maybe you'd like to find out a bit more about the accommodation that we are offering at the University of Ulster at Coleraine, where the event is based? Or you want to know which of the puddings offered at the Conference Dinner is gluten-free? Or maybe you just can't decide which excursion group you'd rather book for? 

Both Binevenagh and Umbra sound amazing, and I'm finding it really hard to chose between White Park Bay with its 9 species of orchids and Ness & Ervey Woods, where I hear the trees are dripping with interesting mosses and rich with unusual lichens, and there is some fascinating history attached to the site. 

White Park Bay, another fieldtrip location.
Image: J. Faulkner
Ian Denholm, BSBI President and Orchid Referee, will be at the ASM and will be on hand to help us with identifying some of the trickier orchids, like the Fragrant Orchid (above right), which may be ssp. borealis. Or maybe not. Even Clive Stace says "distribution very uncertain". If you want to know for sure, why not get your diary out, head over to the ASM page here and see if you can join us in June for what promises to be the botanical highlight of the year? 

There is one exception though - one name that we really don't want to see on the booking list. Find out whose that name is by clicking here.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

News from Stoke Museum

One of the nice things about attending a BSBI workshop is the chance to catch up with fellow botanists from other parts of the country and find out what they have been up to in their local patch. 

It was great to see Martin Godfrey at the Euphrasia workshop in Leicester a few months ago - he shares my passion (and yours, I hope!) for herbaria, and volunteers regularly in his local herbarium at Stoke Museum. So I'm delighted that Martin has sent us an update on his work on brambles, and some images. 

Here's what Martin has been up to:   

"Having completed the catalogue of Eric Edees' Rubus material, I thought I would get away from the actual plant specimens for a bit and take a look at some neglected material in the form of Edees papers left to the museum on his death.  

"As a county recorder and national referee for Rubus his correspondence was very wide, taking in many of the major botanists of the previous generation - including Peter Sell on both Hieraceum and what was to become Sell and Murrell’s “Flora of Great Britain and Ireland” and Pugsley on Euphrasia [see image on left].  

"Probably the strength of these papers to current botanists will be his extensive taxonomic notes, drawings and often very outspoken correspondence with Francis Rilstone on Rubus taxonomy [see image on right] – this was clearly something of an emotive topic in the world of the Batologists of the 1950s and 1960s. 

"The notes, letters and drawings are very detailed and give considerable insight into the species concepts of the period and the differences between UK and Continental botanists.  On a lighter note, there are letters between Edees and H E Weber in Germany about the possibility of a European Batological Exchange Club and, for the biological recording buffs, some discussion on how to label tetrads in the pre-DINTY days. 

"It is a great pity that this kind of museum resource is so very rarely used and even the specimens themselves are infrequently consulted; the last time that a lot went out was for the recent County Flora and for the Hieraceum section of Peter Sell’s magnum opus. 

"In a county museum like this we don’t just have an herbarium so I thought that I would highlight the people who share the lab with me and the, similarly neglected, collections they work on  – so here (on left) is a picture of archaeologist Laura working on bones from a cave in the Manifold Valley and (below) arachnologist Sarah-Jane working on our spider collection".

Thanks for this, Martin. Interesting to have a glimpse into what goes on at Stoke Museum.

To see the images at a larger size - and to read the letter more easily - just click on the images.

If you also work on a botanical collection, whether paid or unpaid, in a museum or a university herbarium, why not send us a few words and an image or two? And do check out the NatSCA blog. We herbarium people should stick together - if we don't blow our own trumpets, I doubt if anybody else will!   

Monday, 13 April 2015

Three cheers for BSBI's Scottish volunteers

VC Recorders at the 2015 Scottish Recorders' Conference
Image: J. McIntosh
Scottish Officer Jim McIntosh has been in touch to tell us about the recent Scottish Recorders' Conference. But don't worry if you weren't able to attend - Jim has uploaded 16 presentations to this webpage, so you haven't missed out altogether! Many of the subjects covered apply to recording across Britain and Ireland, so do check out presentations on Atlas 2020, MapMate, the BSBI database and Memory Map. And you don't need to be an expert to benefit from the info on offer - some presentations are aimed at beginners.

There are also some amazing images to enjoy - just take a look at Andy Amphlett's Powerpoint about recording in the Cairngorms National Park, which was also covered here in News & Views last February. But Andy was obviously saving his very best plant pix for his presentation!

Chris Metherell was also at the Scottish recorders' Conference, talking about Rare Plant Registers and Atlas 2020 - his Powerpoint is here - and he tweeted this photograph live from the event and captioned:
Embedded image permalink

Jim (in blue checked shirt) represented Scotland at
 'Pearman Day' at Kew, Sept 2014
Image: L. Marsh
You can also read Jim's annual report on the BSBI Scotland page and marvel at all he has managed to achieve in the past year, and check out the summary of annual reports from VC Recorders in Scotland (including Michael BraithwaiteDavid WelchPaul Smith and Lynne Farrell). Jim describes this summary as "a fascinating account of botanical endeavour by BSBI Recorders and members across Scotland, which leaves me feeling truly humbled". His report tells us that, as part of BSBI's funding application to Scottish Natural Heritage for Jim's post supporting VC Recorders, he was asked to provide a "notional value of the work undertaken annually by BSBI volunteers in Scotland". This work was valued at £230,000, so if you are one of our amazing volunteers, please set your customary modesty aside for a moment and give yourself an enormous pat on the back! And if you are a BSBI volunteer from England, Ireland or Wales, why not share what you have been up to - or your plans for 2015 - on these pages? Don't think of it as showing off, rather as encouraging your fellow botanists and letting everyone know what can be achieved by getting out in the field with a handlens, an ID key and an enthusiasm for recording our wonderful wildflowers!