University of Birmingham MRes students at Kew's Millennium Seed Bank
Natasha Ali and Costantino Bonomi spent time at Kew's Millennium Seed Bank whilst studying Masters in Conservation and Utilisation of Plant Genetic Resources at the University of Birmingham.
Natasha Ali at Kew's Millennium Seed Bank
"I came to work at Kew through the Masters course in Conservation and Utilisation of Plant Genetic Resources run by Birmingham University. The course covered a mixture of in situ and ex situ conservation techniques and theories. Part of the course was a week-long component on ex situ seed conservation at the MSB. The week was intensive, but I was struck by the progressive attitude of the MSBP towards conservation and capacity building and how keen MSB staff were to ensure that the benefits of conservation reached all, particularly the partners involved in the project. I did a 3 month research project at the MSB using fire simulation treatments to overcome seed dormancy.
I enjoyed the project immensely and when a short term contract at the MSB came up, I applied for it. I became part of the Collection Studies Team which works towards solving problems in germination and dormancy associated with the seed collections. I was involved in teaching our MSB partners, MSc and Kew Diploma students about fundamental aspects of seed germination and alleviating seed dormancy, the same subjects that brought me to the MSB many years ago."
Natasha now works for Kew’s Conventions and Policy section, monitoring Kew’s policy with respect to the Convention on Biological Diversity, providing advice on best practice for Kew staff, training for staff and visitors, and developing agreements between Kew and external organizations.
Costantino Bonomi, a University of Birmingham MPhil student spending time in the field (Image: RBG Kew)
"From a very young age I was fascinated by plants and wanted to know more about them. After my first degree in Biology at the University of Padua, Italy, I decided to study an MPhil in Botanical Diversity: Classification, Conservation and Management in the UK. The course was jointly offered by the Universities of Reading and Birmingham, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and the Natural History Museum, London. It included a period based at RBG Kew, with one week in the MSB at Wakehurst Place. This was a key introduction to seed conservation techniques that gave me the inspiration to create a similar project back in Italy.
I was able to raise funds to establish the Trentino Seed Bank, and enjoyed the help of all the MSB staff to develop a local seed storage facility in the SW Alps in 2002, especially designed to conserve alpine endangered species. This important milestone was the starting point for renewed commitment to plant conservation that lead me to become involved in ENSCONET (European Native Seed Conservation Network) and to coordinate the newborn Italian Network for native seed conservation. My experience at MSB gave me a new dimension of long-lasting international cooperation that will hopefully benefit all endangered plants!"
- Read more about the University of Birmingham MRes in Conservation and Utilisation of Plant Genetic Resources.
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