Forum Topic

  1. Where have all our young botanists gone?

  2. Owen Spearpoint asked this question in the latest Trilepidea (#103). He said "despite outstanding tertiary institutions that yearly form high quality young botanists, there appears to be a shortage of available field botanists in the New Zealand job market". I would like to start a forum conversation about this starting with the suggestion that graduates of plant sciences have very few opportunities to pursue botany in New Zealand. They aren't absent from the job market, there simply isn't a job market. They end up in jobs that don't develop their botanical skills and as a result cannot fill the growing 'botanical gap'. How can we provide more opportunities for young potential botanists?

  3. In the USA a botanical capacity assessment has been done (by Chicago Botanic Garden and BGCI). That showed nearly 50% of federal botanists surveyed (N=147) will retire within 10 years (report summary is here: In NZ a study would be useful and NZPCN recommended to the DOC in 2011 that one be done as a baseline against which to measure change over time. Encouraging DOC and councils to employ more people with botanical skills would be a good start. In the past I believe there were apprenticeships (e.g., Wildlife Service) that students did to get them onto the job ladder. That is an option (for councils and government) to encourage people to stick with a career in plants conservation and biosecurity. Encouraging and supporting universities that teach botany and systematics is important as we need them to continue to produce skilled people who know our flora (incl. weeds). The problem is not going to be solved soon.

  4. It's an interesting issue which involves, I believe, two important points: the employability of graduates (their skill set) and the market for those skills. There is a market, and this is probably larger now than it has been at any time in the past (even with DOC restructurings!). Maybe graduates are not looking in the right places for jobs? The other point - that a graduate's skill set needs to align with their future career - is very very important. As a past (and future) employer of graduate botanists this is something that I (unfortunately) really struggle with. The higher level theoretical knowledge is often there, but the on-the-ground get your hands dirty field botany skills are usually not at the level required.

    to continue ..

  5. So get out there and get those field skills, particularly plant identification, population monitoring and species distribution survey skills (for a conservation-oriented job). Don't neglect the exotic plants and grit your teeth and get to grips with grass and sedge identification. Bot soc trips are a grat venue to get some of these skills

    On a positive note - keep an eye on the Unviersity of Otago's Botany Department. They are currently rethinking what they can provide to students to better qualify them for a botanical career

  6. My 10 cents worth - I'd agree with what Mike is saying. We are producing a swag of top grade theorists but I struggle to find in them many graduates who actually know the New Zealand Flora properly. Meaning there are plenty who know how to under take analysis of our flora but few of them can identify the plants they are actually working on! Currently most New Zealand universities are not teaching the basic skills of plant identification for long enough - a few lectures on biosystematics or a two week crash course does not cut it.

    I agree with Mike Otago University is the one to watch - for now at least, they still teach holistic botany courses.

  7. Cheers for the support Peter. Glad its not just me having this problem. I think the revised Otago could be good, but they are a university so the emphasis is on theory and research (but watch this space). Time for the polytechs to step up too.

    To any aspiring botanists out there - get in touch if you think you have the skills. I've always got an eye out for potential fieldworkers

  8. I think that being able to work in plant identification full time is almost impossible if you wish to have any normal sort of life as well. Fellow graduates that I am aware of that are able to work in the field enough to stay in touch with their identification skills have to travel country wide and are often poorly recompensed for their efforts. The job market is extremely limited and underfunded, leaving little room for constant field time and/or motivation for young botanists to develop.

  9. Whatever happened to joining Botanical Societies and getting out there and learning your local flora? Or just doing it yourself and showing some motivation. No one paid me to do that, but by the time I was at university I had a pretty good handle on the New Zealand Flora anyway. I accept that there are little paid for learning opportunities out there now but to be frank there were precious few of them around when I was a teenager and undergraduate student as well. But there were then and there still are botanical societies you can join who will help you get field identification skills, skills that can and should refined at university level. So sorry but I don't entirely buy your argument. I also stress that its those skills that gave me my initial employment in MAF(Tech.) Aquatic Plants Division not just my university degrees.

  10. Sorry Matt, but if people are not willing to spend their own time acquiring and maintaining skills I don't see much of a future for them in the NZ botanical field (at least in the conservation area). Most people I know spend a large amount of their own time in their field as they are passionate about that field. They also spent much of their early life doing the same thing. If someone is not willing to do that (and it shouldn't feel like a burden or extra work - if it does then you are not passionate) then they do not shine out amongst the many other candidates whose passion drives them along. Maybe some people should rethink their career path?? Sorry to be blunt, but better to face rality now than much disappointment later. This comment also applies to those with zoological leanings

  11. It seems to me that university teaches the theory; passion teaches the plants.
    In saying that, I haven't seen a lot of entry-level jobs around for botanists either. If you're looking for fieldworkers Mike, I'm interested.

Reply to topic

(JPG format, max 500kB)

Your details:
*Type this security code

All forum submissions are subject to NZPCN website admin screening and will not appear to other members until moderated.