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Inspiring the next generation of botanists TODAY!

Dr M attended the UK PlantSci 2014 meeting in York, 31st March 2014.

Check out Dr M’s previous post on the UKPSF report here.

Dr M and colleague Dr Alastair Culham presented a poster to the conference on their experiences teaching herbarium and field skills on the MSc Plant Diversity and MSc SISS at the University of Reading.

UK PLantSci 2014 JM AC 1

You can view the poster here

Dr M explains: “In our poster we note the well-publicised skills-gap in plant taxonomy and plant identification and the demise of University undergraduate botany degrees in the UK.”

“However, we also note that botanical skills remain in demand from employers and are a key element enhancing the employability of our students.”

Dr M considers recent reports of the death of botany to be exaggerated, but there is no room for complacency.

Dr M and Dr Culham  wholeheartedly agree with the conclusion from the UKPSF report that: we must inspire a new generation of plant scientists.” and their poster deals with ways to go to achieve this.


Dr M says: “Our poster outlines some of the teaching and learning practices in taxonomy and field botany which have worked for us and for our students on the MSc Plant Diversity at Reading in recent years, including:

  • focussing on identification and taxonomic skills in the herbarium and in the field;
  • teaching outdoors using our green campus and local and residential field courses;
  • using technology, including social media for our field teaching;
  • developing biodiversity blogs from staff and students;
  • facilitating outreach through school visits, events and web-based information.”

But Dr M notes: “there’s still a way to go and future needs include:

  • enhancing teaching and learning in plant ID and field skills at FE and HE level;
  • retaining and developing university field courses;
  • getting more plant diversity and field botany on the school’s curriculum;
  • developing effective outreach and technology for supporting school teachers;
  • being dynamic, imaginative and proactive in generating new opportunities!”

Dr M and Dr Culham conclude:  the downward spiral of botanical skills loss can only be reversed with determination, originality and dynamism on the part of the current botanical community!



Our take-home message:

Go forth botanically and inspire!



Image credits: University of Reading, Alastair Culham, Dr M and Waheed Arshad