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Ways to inspire the next generation of British botanists!

  • Worried about the loss of ID and related skills amongst British graduates?
  • Want to study botany but can’t find any suitable courses left?
  • Want to help keep botany British botany alive and kicking into the next millennium?!
This is your chance to tell Dr M what needs to be done to inspire the next generation of British botanists and plant scientists!

The featured image shows University of Reading MSc Plant Diversity students enjoying a recent field course with Dr M learning plant ID skills and vegetation survey techniques.

But these days you can count the number of institutions where you can learn field botany  and taxonomy to an advanced level pretty much on the fingers of one hand (check BSBI list of course providers here). The need for botanical training and skills is a critical issue.

Dr M has previously discussed the recent UKPSF reportUK Plant Science: Current status and future challenges and the associated UK PlantSci 2014 conference in York.

Since the York meeting, UKPSF have set up five working groups to take forward specific priorities and ensure the report’s recommendations are implemented.

Dr M has been invited to join the group focussing on training and skills and the first meeting will be on 14 July chaired by Professor Simon Leather.

The working group will develop an implementation plan for the UKPSF and plant science community, outlining clearly defined actions and time scales.

The working group brief is to develop one or two short term actions and one to three medium to long term actions.

Dr M will be drawing on his experiences teachng botany, plant ID and vegetation survey on the University of Reading Plant Diversity MSc to discuss these critical issues.


Dr M wants to know your thoughts and ideas on the immediate and longer-term actions that should be taken to enhance training and skills in botany and plant science in the UK?

Please contact Dr M with your ideas on how best to inspire the next generation of British botanists!




  • Aaron Mills

    Might not be quite what you’re after Dr (aka Associate Professor) M but … we need to get young children (6 yrs and up) interested in plants. By the time they come to me at A Level, the majority either just tolerate or actively dislike the botany parts of the syllabus. I believe a combination of non-gardening parents and science teachers who aren’t ‘botany friendly’ add to the lack of kids wanting to study plant sciences. Kids who are potentially the MSc Plant Diversity cohort of 2026.

  • DrM

    Aaron, thanks I’m open to any suggestions and ideas, inspiring all generations is critical, but interesting how different commentators have different views as to where the crux of the problem lies! Dr M

  • Plantlover

    Hi thanks for your wonderful work! Please be on television (I was inspired by David Bellamy). Also I suggest not using the term Plant Science instead of Botany. It just isn’t googleable. Plant Science brings up endless Engineering pages. It’s particularly difficult if you’re looking for a job and UK job search websites don’t even give you the option to fill in Botany. No wonder students don’t enrol, there appears to be no jobs for graduates

    • DrM

      Thanks! I’d love to be on television, will see what I can do! I agree botany is just the best ‘B’ word, ‘plant science’ just doesn’t cut the mustard! Jobs for graduates is a critical issue of course, but at University of Reading our MSc careers stats are pretty good, sometimes it may take a while to get what you want, but the vast majority of graduates I have taught at Reading have jobs and careers in botany or related. I ll collate some data and add a careers post on drmgoeswild, certainly I wouldn’t be teaching botany if I thought were were no jobs! Dr M

  • Aaron Mills

    An interesting point about ‘Botany’ or ‘Plant Sciences’ Plantlover. I agree that botany should be used, however Plant Sciences is creeping in to University programmes (I’ve just Googled ‘Plant Sciences’ and the first thing on the list is Cambridge University’s Department of Plant Sciences, followed by the Plant Science Journal and Oxford University’s Department of Plant Sciences).
    Some of my A level students aren’t really aware of what ‘botany’ is, but can identify with ‘plant science’.

    Maybe we should be open to both terms? I’d be interested in your thoughts?

  • Caroline Hunt

    If it’s children you want to engage then you need to get to their level, let’s face it botany or whatever you choose to call it can to a child seem very boring. You need to get dirty make it exciting and relevant to them my kids are seven
    And nine they can ID a good range of wild plants if not by name but by sight, ok most of them are of the edible type, but you have to start somewhere and they enjoy nothing more than a forage. Children of today are distanced from their outdoor life at school by too much red tape. And that is another good place to start. Forest schools are great but if a child is not allowed to make nettle tea or try a pig nut how are we to expect them to become excited by a flower? As they say from small acorns come mighty oaks. I may not have a uni degree or done great at school but when my 9 year old tells me she wants to be just like David Attenborough, I’m the richest person in the world. Rant over 🙂

  • botanist

    I did the MSc in taxonomy at Edinburgh Botanic Gardens and it feels like the gap is not in producing botanists but in job availability. The course produces 10 or more graduates a year, and very few of us find paid work in the field, so we end up doing other things, or those who can afford it volunteer for years…

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