Gail is an Education Consultant, formerly Head of Community Outreach and International Consultant for Biodiversity Education at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
How long have you been working with plants and the natural world?
I’ve been working with plants for more than 40 years – since the late 1960s. I got involved in biodiversity education in the mid-1980s, so that’s about 25 years now.
Why is helping to connect people and plants important to you?
People need plants and because of our continuing indiscriminate destruction and unsustainable use of plants, plants now need people! We need to value, respect and protect our natural heritage in order to survive as a species and maintain a healthy balanced ecosystem for the future.
Tell us about a project you’re really proud to have been involved in.
Working on an environmental education programme in Argentina to support and train teachers (and through them, their pupils) in very remote and rural communities to value and conserve their amazing biodiversity. We trained 12,000 teachers during the five-year programme – and many rural communities developed follow-up conservation and sustainable use projects in their local areas.
I’m also proud of setting up the International Diploma in Botanic Garden Education with Julia Willison from Botanic Gardens Conservation International. We’ve run many courses for education providers from all over the world and it’s been wonderful to see their individual botanic garden education programmes increase, flourish and have a real impact. Staying in touch with most of our past participants has helped us see that botanic garden education really can make a difference.
Finally, what is your favourite plant?
The genus Mutisia in the daisy family (Asteraceae). The daisy family mostly has herbaceous plants, but these are trees with large, beautiful and colourful flowering heads – quite extraordinary. I collected many plants in South America in my taxonomy heyday, including several new species – but finding one of these in flower in some remote location in the Andes still takes my breath away!