What has happened: the first year of BSPP Outreach

16 Dec 2013

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It's been over a year now since BSPP Outreach started and as end of year festivities are in full swing we thought high time to celebrate the highlights from 2013 and let you know what's happening next year.

The beginning (2012)

BSPP Outreach started in October 2012, in light of the BSPP audit showing the major of loss of plant scientists at various UK institutes. By chance this coincided with the UK outbreak of ash die back which helped prove the need for expertise in understanding plant diseases. 

The end of the beginning (2013)

Following lots of planning and research, outreach activities kicked off in the spring of 2013. 


We were fortunate to have the assistance of BBSRC PhD student Claire Stoker from the University of Warwick from March – June, who completed an internship for her DTC industrial placement. Claire helped to research and develop educational resources, and run activities at outreach events. Claire provided excellent full-time support. Her enthusiasm, communication skills and ability to produce high quality work really helped to accelerate outreach activities. 


Claire and I went to the UK Plant Science Federation Conference in Dundee, where we demonstrated our new activities as part of the outreach table. Professor Gary Foster (BSPP vice-President/University of Bristol) also gave a brilliant talk on behalf of BSPP entitled: 'Plant Pathology: The Past, the Present, and More Importantly, the Future'. He set the context by giving key facts from the BSPP audit on plant pathology teaching and training in the UK and then gave excellent exposure to the BSPP outreach team’s work. Watch a video of Gary’s talk here: 


We ran the Leafy Murder Mystery event (organised solely by the BSPP outreach team), which gave members of the public and school children the chance to become plant disease detectives. For this event we produced a series of promo-videos, watch them here:
This event was part of the International Fascination of Plants Day and local projects Wild City, and Bristol99. In total 28 school children and 50 members of the public took part in the event and it was a great way of generating interest in the Society and its outreach work. 


We ran the first ever Plant Doctor stand at the Bristol Festival of Nature. Here we ran the Plant Doctor activity, which involves looking at diseased plants, working out their symptoms and then making a diagnosis. Our stand was extremely popular, and we went through Plant Doctor training with at least 350 people over the 3 days. 


I went to visit University of Gloucester Summer Science School, where I helped Dr Sally Rogers deliver a work shop on plant diseases to a group of AS level students. This was extremely interesting, and helped give me ideas for secondary and sixth form level resources we will develop in the future. Claire also paid a visit to her local primary school, where she ran the Plant Doctor activity. 


Following the popularity of the Plant Doctor stand at the Bristol Festival of Nature, we were spotted by the BBC Education team and invited to run the stand at the BBC One Show Summer Festival. In total we gave out 700 Plant Doctor stickers to people who had completed our activities. The stand also briefly featured in the live broadcast of the BBC One Show on 7th August, helping to publicise the Society and its outreach. 


Time to rest!


We worked with Dr Ali Ashby at the British Mycology Society on putting together some promo-videos for the UK Fungus Day. The videos show the uses of fungi and the different ways fungi can digest trees. We hope to continue to work with the BMS next year! 


Time to get planning!


Claire and I will be presenting a poster on outreach at this year's Presidential Meeting, we'll be talking about what's happened this year, the plans for next year and how to get involved. 

Next year

Read all about our plans for next year and how to get involve in this post:'What is happening with BSPP Outreach in 2014'.

Thank you

I'd like to say a massive thank you to the BSPP board members, and especially:
  • Dr Robert Jackson, Professor Murray Grant and Professor Gary Foster for all their energy and support throughout the year
  • Dr Diane Hird for always being around to help, and giving  so much time and energy
  • Claire Stoker for her enthusiasm and energy during (and after) her internship 
  • Steve England (Stoke Park, Bristol) for all his help for outreach events and videos
  • And of course all the volunteer undergraduates, PhD students, post-docs, and local people who have been a massive help at our outreach events
That’s it for now, it’s been a fantastic year and there's lots more planned for 2014. In the meantime, merry Christmas and a happy new year!
Katie Tomlinson (BSPP Outreach Officer)