Saturday, 23 December 2017

New Year Plant Hunt support team 2018: ready to help you!

Ciara was delighted to find
a Shepherd's-purse in flower!
New Year Plant Hunt 2017, Leicester
Image: K. Akkerman
We're busy gearing up for BSBI's New Year Plant Hunt which starts next weekend. There are eight of us on the support team this year, ready to answer your enquiries, help with identifications, offer advice on how to use the recording form, retweet or 'like' any finds you post via Twitter or Facebook, process/ report on and then analyse the results...

Last year, Ciara Sugrue, PhD student at University of Loughborough, joined the team to help out behind the scenes and she has very kindly agreed to come back again this year. 

I asked Ciara to tell us a bit about her experience as a New Year Plant Hunt volunteer, why she got involved and to remind us what the New Year Plant Hunt is all about. 

Over to Ciara:  

"The New Year Plant Hunt (NYPH) is undergoing its seventh year of data collection from Saturday 30th December to Tuesday 2nd January. 


The New Year Plant Hunt website
showing 2017 results
"The aim of the NYPH is to walk for up to three hours identifying wild or naturalised flowering plants. This data collection is very important as it helps to build a bigger picture of how many plants are flowering in winter in the UK and Ireland, in light of climate change.

"In January 2017, I volunteered for a week to assist in the NYPH. Last year a new mobile form was created to record the flowering plants on your phone and there was a new website with an interactive map, so you could enter the records at home and see what other people were recording

"The forms are really user friendly. Plant records can be entered quickly and easily whilst on the plant walk or at home. This allowed plant species to be documented without having to be manually entered by the volunteers. 
Geoffrey Hall (County Recorder for
Leicestershire & Rutland (VC55)
examining Wall Barley to see if it
was in flower. He decided it wasn't!
New Year Plant Hunt 2017
Image: C. Sugrue

"For those that lacked a smart phone, I helped enter in over 500 individual species records on the website form. The mobile form and website were a great success, and we have to thank Tom Humphrey and the Biological Records Centre/Centre for Ecology & Hydrology for creating them!` 

"This year I will be volunteering for another week with the BSBI. Part of my volunteering includes checking records. Where flowering plants have never been recorded in that area, I manually check the records. By processing these records I develop my knowledge of the flowering plant distribution in the UK and Ireland.

"Last year I attended two New Year Plant Hunts organised by the Leicestershire VC55 BSBI group as part of my volunteering, which I thoroughly enjoyed. 2017 was the first year I have taken part in the NYPH and would highly recommend it to beginners. During the two Leicestershire surveys (one in the city, one in the countryside), we recorded between 25- 35 flowering plants each time, which was the perfect amount as I was able to refresh my memory and learn how to identify a handful of new plants. 


Keechy Akkerman learning how to
identify wild flowers with
Ciara's trusty 'Collin's Flower Guide'.
Image: C. Sugrue
"There were botanists with a range of expertise, allowing us to learn from one another. I really enjoyed the first (rural)  NYPH, so much so that I took one of my colleagues Keechy Akkerman out with me on my second (urban) trip! 

"As I am volunteering again this year I am looking to create ambassadors from universities with a strong botanical background that can organise a NYPH on their campus or in their local area. I have met many excellent botanists who began as students or who were self-taught and believe it is extremely important to share this knowledge. 

"If you would be interested in helping coordinate a NYPH on your University campus please contact me via the NYPH email 
account nyplanthunt@bsbi.org 
and we can post your event on the new Events page on the NYPH website.

"I would like to say a final thank you to the NYPH team from 2017: Ian, Richard, Ryan and Tom. With a special thank you to Louise (BSBI Communications Officer) and Kevin (Head of Science) as without them I wouldn’t have been able to take part in this great event. I would also like to welcome Ellen Goddard from Loughborough University who will be volunteering with the NYPH this year – welcome to the team Ellen! - and I'm also looking forward to working with Jo, who is based in London and is also joining the team this year. 

"Happy New Year Plant Hunting!"­