Heritage Lottery funding to safeguard Lincolnshire plants

A new Heritage Lottery Fund supported project aims to inspire young people to become the botanists of the future, helping to safeguard and improve our understanding of plants and the environment.

Pioneered by Lincolnshire Naturalists’ Union, Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust, the Sir Joseph Banks Society and the Natural History Museum, the project is called ‘Lincolnshire Plants – Past and Future’. The University of Lincoln will support the project by studying the genetics of these plants.

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A development grant of £21,400 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has already been secured to begin setting up the project. Once this development phase is complete, a larger grant of £473,100 has been earmarked by HLF for a three year project.

This larger grant will partly be used for a range of lifelong learning events and public engagement, a key aspect of which is to help young people connect with wildlife and develop botanical skills like plant identification, wildlife recording and the careful collection of important specimens.

The project will fund the creation of a contemporary collection of Lincolnshire plant specimens, inspired by a collection created by Sir Joseph Banks, the eighteenth century Lincolnshire naturalist who famously voyaged around the world with Captain Cook. This will compliment an older collection currently preserved by Lincolnshire Naturalists’ Union.

Over the last 150 years the Lincolnshire Naturalists’ Union has been compiling a huge collection of over 9000 plant specimens, including some of Lincolnshire’s rarest plants. Such a special archive can provide lots of information about climate change, plant genetics and nature conservation. However, with no proper storage facilities available in Lincolnshire the collection is now at serious risk of deterioration. Fortunately, as part of the lottery funded project the Natural History Museum in London will now look after the collection, securing it safely in facilities designed specifically for the protection of plant specimens. The Natural History Museum will also professionally catalogue and document the specimens, unlocking a treasure trove of vital environmental information.

These plant collections will allow scientists to study changes in our environment over the last three centuries, dramatically improving our understanding of the natural history of Lincolnshire and informing future environmental decisions. Scientists at the University of Lincoln hope to study the genetics of the specimens once they have been catalogued.

Chris Manning, Chair of the Project Steering Board and from Lincolnshire Naturalists’ Union, said: “This project is a wonderful opportunity to inspire young people with nature and improve our knowledge of Lincolnshire’s natural history. We need new botanists to help us understand the impact of climate change and to champion the knowledge we can gain about our environment from studying plants.

“Once our past and present plant collections are catalogued and stored by the Natural History Museum we will have a huge resource to help botanists and scientists better understand our environment.”

Looking to go into postgraduate study?

RyanAustinWe spoke to MSc Forensic Anthropology student Ryan Austin who was awarded a Joseph Banks Scholarship to continue his studies here at University of Lincoln.

Ryan boasts the positives, saying: “The Forensic Anthropology course and the lecturers are brilliant; it’s a very hands-on course and the lecturers experience is fundamental.

“We’ve got experts in Forensic Anthropology and Disaster Victim Identification. We can develop the course and make sure it’s for the students and made for them rather than it being stale and the same every year.”

PhDs can be heavily research-based, but Ryan says not to let it put you off, adding: “It’s brilliant and really interesting, but hard work.”

For anyone looking into postgraduate courses, he advised: “Look at the universities interests and see what they’re doing, see what the lecturers are doing and their skills set and what their current research topics are. You can then see if any of your ideas fit in with their current research interests.”

There are a range of scholarships on offer to help fund your postgraduate degree here at Lincoln.

“I did mine through the Joseph Banks Scholarship, which was a very short application where you outline your method and research interests and go through the interview process, and then you find out if you’re accepted.”

Ryan is hoping to get the university interested in his research topics when it comes to the REF 2020 and wants to one day become a lecturer at the University of Lincoln.

See more information on postgraduate scholarships here.