I’ve already written about the Gatsby Plant Science Summer School and I mentioned in that post that because I enjoyed it I organised a three week placement working in the University Botanic Gardens and the herbarium with Dr Gornall. It may seem a long way off but the summer is a great opportunity to do something that will really benefit you in the future and help you find out what really interests you, and it’s never to early to start thinking about what that might be!
I started in the herbarium recording specimens in collections from two different museums, which was really interesting and it showed me how much variation there is between species of the same genera (the collections where of saxifraga). There were also some specimens that needed mounting, labelling and filing which was a skill that I would never have got the chance to learn in my lectures this year.
I also got to spend time at the Botanic Gardens where I had the chance to join Dr Gornall surveying the Gardens and I had some practise using keys to identify plants, it was great to have this opportunity and has made me want to do the Plant ID module in the third year of my degree.
It was a really interesting three weeks and I learnt a lot. One of the aims of the garden is to have a species to represent each plant family (within reason, some plants would be unrealistic to try and grow here, for example those that require high altitude). I worked on a project over the three weeks to look at what families there was already a species from in the garden and which we were missing. I then looked into what species would be a good one to grow in the gardens and possible places we could source them from.
My favourite part of my three weeks on the placement was the field work, I got to help with seed collection and collecting voucher specimens. Once back at the herbarium I helped clean the seeds and do seed cut tests on the seeds we collected to help work out how many were likely to germinate. These were then put into deep freeze to create a gene bank of plant species that are rare in Leicestershire. It was amazing to see how the gene bank is created. I also got to press the voucher specimens to be filed in the herbarium.
Over the placement I got to do loads of things I would never normally have at uni and I’m so glad I used some of my holidays to do something that will look great on my CV. I would definitely recommend trying to get some extra experience in an area that interests you during your summers at uni.