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Millennium Seed Bank Training Programme

The training programme of Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank Partnership develops the specialised skills and knowledge needed to collect, conserve and manage ex situ seed collections. A combination of training activities are offered to partners, collaborators and other institutes, following a detailed 'training needs assessment' of existing experience.
MSBP Technology Specialist John Adams with staff from Kunming Institute of Botany
MSBP Technology Specialist John Adams with staff from Kunming Institute of Botany

Seed conservation techniques

The Seed Conservation Techniques course, for graduate scientists and professionals directly involved in seed conservation programmes, is held in September every other year. The three-week residential course focuses on practical aspects of seed biology and provides training in collecting, processing, drying, storage and viability testing of seeds of wild species. A written assessment is set at the end of the course and successful candidates are awarded a Certificate in Seed Conservation Techniques.

The course includes the theoretical background of seed moisture relations, seed storage behaviour, germination and dormancy, and prediction of seed storage life, together with seed bank management and design. Potential uses of ex situ seed collections in restoration ecology, species reintroduction and sustainable use initiatives are discussed as well as implications of recent advances in seed conservation.


Photo of the exterior of the Millennium Seed Bank buildings
Millennium Seed Bank buildings

Technical training at the Millennium Seed Bank

Technical training is a key part of our approach to building capacity in seed conservation. The main training objective is to develop seed processing and testing skills through the practical experience of working alongside MSBP staff, in order to enhance capability and to address seed conservation problems throughout our partnership.

Five staff from Millennium Seed Bank Partnership China partners, the Southwest China Germplasm Bank of Wild Species (SCGBWS), which is based at the Kunming Institute of Botany, visited the MSB for a period of six weeks. They received comprehensive training in seed banking and were able to compare MSBP methods with the techniques and strategies they had used on recent collections in China. The team have passed on the skills they learnt, organising seed collecting and processing teams and giving advice to SCGBWS on implementing seed conservation activities.

Carly Cowell, Cape Project Coordinator for MSBP South Africa partners, the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), spent four weeks at the MSB for technical training. Working on South African seed collections, she learnt new techniques for cleaning and storing seeds and practiced assessment procedures to ensure the collection of high quality seeds. Back in South Africa, Carly developed the methods used at her institute and put her training into practice with the Cape collecting team, organising a workshop on Seed Conservation Techniques at Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden.

Specialist training outside the UK

The MSBP offers practical training in seed conservation to its partners and collaborators, at institutes in our network. Training focuses on particular scientific or technical issues, or other associated project needs.

Plant conservation strategies

Kew’s International Diploma course in Plant Conservation Strategies covers options for plant conservation, from protected area management to botanic gardens, seed banking and cryopreservation. Staff from the MSBP teach a week-long seed banking and cryopreservation module as part of this course, based at Wakehurst.

Higher education at the Millennium Seed Bank

The Millennium Seed Bank Partnership works in partnership with some UK universities to offer taught modules for MSc courses, covering various aspects of seed conservation. Postgraduate students are able to carry out research for PhD projects at the MSB and will often be supervised by a MSBP member of staff, alongside their university tutor. Kew staff members are also given the opportunity to undertake PhD projects, related to their ongoing work programmes.

Contact us

Email the team to express an interest in joining one of our training programmes -