Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Irish BSBI conference: last chance to book!

Dactylorhiza kerryensis var. occidentale
Irish botanists are gearing up for one of the highlights of the year - the Irish BSBI conference takes place in Dublin this Saturday at the National Botanic Gardens and it looks an absolute corker, whether you're an experienced botanist or an absolute beginner!

The day kicks off with Ian Denholm (who wears many hats but is also one of BSBI's two expert referees for orchids) talking about Dactylorhiza in Ireland. Having attended one of Ian's orchid talks, I can promise you that he makes even beginner botanists feel that identification of these beautiful but notoriously tricky wildflowers is actually... well, if not easy then at least not impossible!

The Rough Crew in action
With workshops and identification sessions on rushes, aquatics and other tricky taxa throughout the day, and an ID table where you can bring along difficult specimens and pick the brains of some of Ireland's finest botanists, delegates should leave the conference feeling that they've learned a huge amount - as well as having a really fun day in great company!

Also on the menu are talks about Atlas 2020, the celebrated C20th Irish botanist David Webb, the famous Irish Rough Crew and a chance to meet and network with County Recorders from across Ireland, such as the new team in County Cork: Clare, Edwina and Finbarr.

We've extended the booking deadline to give everybody a chance to book - but you'll need to move quickly! Just head over here and get your payment in by Thursday. 

There's a special low rate if you're a student or unwaged, and there's also a reduced rate for County Recorders (a wee thank you for all the amazing work they do!). But even if you have to pay the full non-members' rate - well, at 30 euros for the whole day it's still an amazing bargain!

If you really can't make it, you'll be able to follow all the action via the event's Twitter hashtag #IrishBSBIConference but there's no substitute for being there with all the friendly Irish botanists. 

Monday, 13 March 2017

Nitrogen deposition and 'native thugs'

Image: C. Ferguson-Smyth
Our colleagues at Plantlife have been on radio and TV today spreading the word about how Nitrogen pollution is impacting on our wild flowers.   

Dr Trevor Dines (Plantlife's Botanical Specialist and a longtime BSBI member) blogged about this here, and if you click here you can catch his interview on BBC Breakfast this morning. Starts at 1 hour 21 minutes in.

You can also catch this interview with Jenny Hawley of Plantlife on this morning's Today programme on BBC Radio 4 (starts at 1 hour 24 minutes in), or download Plantlife's report here. You can also see what Trevor had to say in the Huffington Post a few hours ago, or check out how the story was covered in The Telegraph and The Scotsman

BSBI members may also want to check out this paper by Rob Marrs et al. published in 2013 in New Journal of Botany, which flags up the impact 'native thugs' like nettles are having on the ground flora of our woodlands.  

As Trevor pointed out on BBC Breakfast, one of the plants affected by the Nitrogen-loving 'thugs' is the delicate Harebell, once a common wildflower and now classified as Near Threatened on the England Red List

Celebrating the life of Jean Bowden

Jean Bowden
Image reproduced from the Alton Herald.
Spotted in yesterday's Alton Herald - an obituary of Jean Bowden, who held various posts at Kew during a period when such opportunities were hard to come by for female botanists. 

She was higher scientific officer at Kew Museums of Economic Botany, from which she was apparently the first woman to be sent abroad on a field excursion. Jean was also the author of a book on John Lightfoot, whose herbarium specimens she worked on while at Kew. 

Later on she "worked in the editorial department of the Kew Bulletin 1984" and ended her career by becoming the curator of Jane Austen's house

Do click on the links and enjoy reading about Jean Bowden's fascinating career, whether cycling twenty miles a day to the Herbarium at Kew, or making sure that the cut flowers in Jane Austen's house were historically accurate!

Saturday, 11 March 2017

State of the World's Plants 2017

Abstract submissions for State of the World’s Plants 2017 is now open! The Symposium will be held at RBG Kew from 25th –26th May 2017.

Now in its second year,The State of the World’s Plants Symposium coincides with the publication of a cutting-edge annual report highlighting our current knowledge of the Earth’s plant diversity, the global threats that plants face and the policies dealing with them.

Abstracts are invited from delegates wishing to present a poster and a one-minute oral presentation. Prizes will be awarded for the best early career researcher posters.
Deadline for abstract submissions: Friday 21 April 2017

You can also register now to attend. The cost is £150 and this includes lunch and refreshments on both days, a drinks reception and behind the scenes tours of Kew’s collections.
Deadline for registration: Tuesday 25 April 2017

For more information, to submit an abstract or to register for the meeting, please visit: www.kew.org/sotwp-symposium 

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.