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Winners of Marsh Awards announced

23 October 2015

BGCI is delighted to announce that the 2015 winners of the Marsh Awards are Jože Bavcon for International Plant Conservation and Sophie Williams for Education in Botanic Gardens. The awards were presented by John McVitie of the Marsh Christian Trust at a ceremony at the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh on 22 October, 2015.

The Awards are run by the Marsh Christian Trust in partnership with BGCI and recognise early/mid-career individuals who have made a significant achievement in either the conservation of rare and endangered plant species and plant diversity or in promoting public awareness of the importance of plants and/or undertaking impactful education activities within a botanic garden.


Marsh Award for International Plant Conservation

Dr Jože Bavcon is Director of the Ljubljana botanic garden and works tirelessly for the conservation of Slovenia’s native plants. With minimum staff and a small budget he has made great progress in raising awareness amongst University staff, politicians and the general public of the importance of conserving plant diversity and developing botanic gardens. Dr Bavcon focuses on the conservation of endangered plants and a number of species cultivated at the botanic garden are now ready to be reintroduced into their endangered natural habitat. Dr Bavcon has also taken the lead in establishing a national botanic garden network in Slovenia, now including 9 gardens. Each takes responsibility for their own collections, with close attention being paid to rare Slovenian endemic plants and species on the Red Data List.

Through his work with the city authorities, 67 native ash trees have been planted in the city centre as a means to promote native diversity in the urban area. Native bulbs have also been planted along the banks of the Ljubljanica river in the city. These were grown from native genetic material from the garden and include Galanthus nivalis, Leucoyum vernum and Cyclamen purpurascens. These now flower in the city just as in the wild.


Marsh Award for Education in Botanic Gardens

Dr Sophie Williams has carried out some highly influential work in the fields of education and plant conservation. Her work focuses on the interaction of social and ecological systems, how environmental education and training can influence human behaviour and the underlying social reasons for the over-exploitation of plant resources around the world. 

Sophie’s commitment to plant conservation has been evident in a number of aspects of her career. She has been key in helping to ensure the survival of the Bangor University botanic garden and in introducing a new plant conservation MSc at the University. She has been an inspiration to a number of students both in the UK and in China.

As a part-time post-doctoral researcher at Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanic Garden (XTBG) in China, Sophie has helped establish a training programme for educators in botanic gardens across the country – the first such programme to be established in China.

Earlier this year, Sophie contracted Japanese encephalitis whilst undertaking field work in China. She is slowly recovering, but remains in hospital.  Her partner Robert collected the award on her behalf.  The thoughts of all at BGCI are with Sophie and we hope she makes a speedy and complete recovery.

Find out more about the Marsh Christian trust here

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