Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Botanical University Challenge

The Edge Hill team, breakfasted
 and awaiting entrance to 
the Jodrell lab at Kew.
Paul Ashton of Edge Hill University tells us about Botanical University Challenge, which took place last year and is happening again this autumn. If you are interested in taking part, please get in touch with Paul.

"University Challenge typically involves images of knowledgeable young men and women sweating worriedly under the combined glare of the studio lights and Paxman’s questions. 

It was with the aim of imparting such torture and of raising the profile of botany in UK universities that Jonathan Mitchley and John Warren developed the idea of Botanical University Challenge last year.

As a result of this initiative, the early hours of 10th March 2016 saw a car load of expectant students leave Edge Hill University with their Head of Department cum chauffeur. Discussion along the way predominantly focused upon the meaning of scientific Latin and speculation about what other rounds may feature. That and which services we were stopping at for breakfast.

Cards all ready, awaiting the draw!
Once breakfasted and arrived we joined similarly expectant teams from Aberystwyth, Kew, Reading and Southampton, ready to do practised battle. Rounds did feature botanical Latin alongside a full range of other areas; plants in the bible, plants and drinks, Welsh common names – the clue was in the descriptions - and a round or two on identification.

James Wong proved a friendly, less intimidating question master than Jeremy Paxman. He also added his own twists to various rounds by adding snippets of information to any ethnobotanical round and providing a final arbiter of the suitability of some questions, “next round is sedge identification, who thought that was a good idea? That’s too difficult, we aren’t having that. Let’s go to the next set of questions”!

The Edge Hill team in action
There were undoubtedly some very knowledgeable individuals representing the various institutions. Though handling the pressure and knowing when to hit the bell were equally important. 

All teams acquainted themselves well before Reading emerged eventual winners. Edge Hill’s pain at failure was eased by one of our graduates appearing on the victorious team. Although, we haven’t forgiven him for such treachery!

The teams are introduced to the audience
Thanks go to RBG Kew for hosting and to Jonathan and John for organising. We look forward to the next one in November 2017. We have already started revising our botanical Latin and our plants in Shakespeare. Roll on autumn".

Thanks to Paul for telling us about Botanical University Challenge. Don't forget to get in touch with him if you would like to take part this autumn.