The Millennium Seed Bank provides training, technical advice and equipment to partners, in order to enhance their capacity to collect, store and manage seeds of the world's species, as part of the target to bank 25% of the world's seeds by 2020. The Seed Conservation Standards (pdf) provide guidelines for how collections should be made, stored and managed, and the training programme is designed around helping institutions reach those standards.
Training takes place both at the MSB and at partner institutions around the world. Training can take different forms, such as:
Short courses range from day-long workshops to longer residential courses. Examples include a workshop on the use of seed in restoration and re-introduction run jointly with Flora locale, and the Seed Conservation Techniques Course which is the MSB's biggest course. The Seed Conservation Techniques Course brings together Scientists from across the Partnership to learn about the practical and theoretical aspects of ex situ seed conservation. During this course participants receive practical training in collecting, processing, drying, storage, moisture content assessment and germination testing of seeds of wild species. They also cover the theory of seed moisture relations, seed storage behaviour, how to predict seed storage life, and theoretical and practical aspects of seed bank management and design.
Short courses also take place at partner institutions. In 2016, training courses took place at 5 of our partner institutions, which were Addis Ababa University, National Botanic Garden of Georgia, the Genetic Resources Institute in Azerbaijan, the Plant Genetic Resources Research Institute in Ghana, and the Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute. Regional training courses like these bring together partners from across the region, providing valuable opportunities for sharing knowledge and expertise between institutions.
Technical attachments are bespoke visits for partners to learn about something specific, such as processing collections or germination testing. Recently, partners from the Genetic Resources Institute in Azerbaijan, the Jardín Botánico Atlántico in Spain, and the Plant Genetic Resources Research Institute in Ghana spent two weeks training on collections management, quality assessment and banking with the Collections team at the MSB.
Joint collecting trips
Joint collecting trips provide a valuable opportunity for Kew staff and their partners to work together to address difficulties in making different collections, and learn from each other. It is also a chance to assess the effectiveness of training that may have been provided, and help implement the Seed Conservation Standards.
PhD, Masters and Undergraduate placements and visits
RBG Kew has links with Universities worldwide and many of the staff at the MSB supervise PhD, Masters and Undergraduate students. In 2016-2017, the MSB hosted two sandwich-year undergraduate students from the University of Bath and University of York, who were working for the UK National Tree Seed Project (pdf) and the UK Native Seed Hub. Students from Kew's MSc in Plant and Fungal Taxonomy, Diversity and Conservation have the opportunity to undertake their research projects at the MSB.
Training for Kew staff
Staff training is for both new members of staff and those wanting to get involved in collecting for the MSBP. In the past year more than 50 Kew Staff have undergone training at the MSB in things like seed collecting, tree identification, and making seed collections, and many have gone on to make collections of seed that are being banked at the MSB.
The MSBP also provides a number of technical information sheets available to the public, on different aspects of seed conservation practice and facilities.