31 Oct 2019

3 Months at the Garden

Ardd Fotaneg · Botanic Garden

Three months at the Garden.

I’m Jack and I’m coming to the end of a three-month placement within the Science department at the Botanic Garden as part of the industry year of my BSc Countryside Management at Aberystwyth University.

During my time at the Garden I have been involved with various projects and activities. The majority of work that I’ve been doing has been related to locating, collecting and seed banking rare Welsh plant species. My first day on placement involved a trip to Kenfig Nature Reserve to identify locations of plants and collect any target species that were in seed. Many of the species were still in flower and therefore only had their location marked, however, the one collection we did make of Rhinanthus minor happened to be in the car park despite the expanse of Kenfig.

Following on from this, I took part in a week long seed collecting trip on the Great Orme with the Botanic Garden and Kew Wakehurst team. This involved trekking up and down rocky faces, braving wet weather, identifying and collecting species such as Aster linosyris, Marrubium vulgare and Rosa agrestis.  Many of these species have now been cleaned and stored within the seed bank at the gardens. Carlina vulgaris was particularly difficult to clean; it took over two weeks and a lot of splinter removal!

However, not all of the seed banking work has meant braving the Welsh wilderness, additionally I have spent a large proportion of my time establishing current and past locations of various Welsh plant species by compiling location data from the NBN atlas, BSBI and County Floras.  I hope that these databases come in handy in the future and can be added to, and continually improve the knowledge of known plant locations. I have developed a real love for GIS and mapping during my degree and have been able to use my knowledge to produce maps displaying the locations of rare plant species across Wales which can then be used in the field on future seed collecting trips.

I’ve committed a lot of time to floral surveys at the Garden which is contributing to ongoing PhD research into pollinator foraging. Basic ID skills and a stubbornness to determine every flower meant I would often spend hours on end performing one survey, however lots of repetition and the knowledge of staff at the Garden has cemented the ID of various wildflower species found in the Gardens and I have subsequently taken every opportunity to get out and survey.

As a placement student, shifts in the butterfly house Plas Pilipala are frequent. The volunteers are very knowledgeable on the various butterflies and moths within the house and I’ve subsequently learnt a lot. I’ve loved interacting with the public and answering their questions on the butterflies within the house and have often talked their ear off about ecology and the other work done at the Science department.

Overall, I’ve had a massively informative and enjoyable time at the Garden. The Science department have been awesome, friendly and incredibly knowledgeable on a large range of subjects. I will keep an eye on all the research and projects that comes out of the department in the future and I wish them all the best.