Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, NERC Field Identification Short Course
Cemre here. As an archaeobotanist my job generally involves looking through a microscope to identify archaeological plant remains. For the region I am working in, those remains almost always come in charred or occasionally in silicified forms and usually as seeds, chaff, or wood. So, when I go out to the field and people ask me if I know what plant this is, I am sometimes baffled because the living plant is not what I am used to looking at. To address this problem, I applied to join the NERC-funded field identification short course at the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. While two weeks is not that long of a time, this short course, organised by Dr. Gemma Bramley from the Kew Herbarium, was an amazing opportunity to complement and expand my field identification skills. In this intense period, we had multiple practical sessions that ran from 9 am until 5:30 pm.
Most of the attendees came from more conservation or environmental science backgrounds so participating gave me a great opportunity to view my research from a different angle. It was almost like raising my head over the microscope and looking to my research from a distance or a different perspective. I started thinking about what else I can answer using archaeobotanical plant remains and how to marry my research to all the new things that I was learning. Moreover, Kew Herbarium has an amazing library, which people can go and use during weekdays.
Another amazing part of this short course was I managed to get to visit Kew Gardens every day for lunch and I took the opportunity to look at plants and try to apply things that I had learnt on the course. The short course was not only about learning field identification but also involved learning how to draw a plot in order to do a vegetation survey, as well as basic modelling and mapping skills which are all very useful for archaeologists. On the second to last day we went out to Richmond Park in groups and applied everything we learnt in the field and presented the data that we collected on the last day of the course.
The two weeks made me realise how lucky I am working in a field I love and how it makes me happy that my job is to learn all the time! My new and improved knowledge will be of great assistance in the field and will enable me to contribute more to both my current and future projects. Again, I would like not only to thank NERC for funding the short course and Dr. Gemma Bramley for organising, but also everyone involved in the teaching and all the participants. It was great and I hope to be back to Kew again for more research!
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