BGCI Announces 2019 Marsh Award Winners

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BGCI announced Ana Sandoval as the winner of the 2019 Marsh Award for International Plant Conservation and Benjamin Ong as the winner of the 2019 Marsh Award for Education in Botanic Gardens at an event in London on October 8th.

The Marsh Awards are awarded annually by the Marsh Christian Trust, in partnership with BGCI, in recognition of excellence in International Plant Conservation and Botanic Garden Education.

Ana Sandoval – 2019 Marsh Award for International Plant Conservation

Since 2005, Anna has been working as a technical researcher at the seedbank of Instituto de Investigaciones Agropecuarias (INIA) in Vicuña, Chile. This seedbank focuses on the conservation of crop wild relatives but Ana’s interests and knowledge enabled her to utilise the facilities of the seedbank to the maximum.

One of her first experiences on conserving an endemic species was Dalea azurea from Paposo in the Atacama desert, the driest desert in the planet, and many more.

Through her passion and dedication she decided to make contact with BGCI with a proposal for the integrated conservation of three highly threatened endemic tree species, Pouteria splendens (the only representation of the Sapotaceae family in Chile), Myrcianthes coquimbensis (very restricted distribution within the Coquimbo region) and Carica chilensis (very rare dioecious species with scarce populations). In the last three years, she has collected seeds of these species, produced propagation protocols, grown plants, engaged with the local community and she and her team are working very hard on their reinforcement.

Chile is very lucky to have such an individual as Ana Sandoval who is dedicated to the conservation of its endemic and native flora. Her passion for nature began from an early age, mountain and country side walks awakened within her a capacity for respect and observation of local biodiversity.

– Noelia Alvarez

Benjamin Ong – 2019 Marsh Award for Education in Botanic Gardens

Between 2014 and 2018, Benjamin founded and developed the Rimba Project, a platform for community engagement and volunteer development. He helped Rimba Ilmu overcome resource constraints by training student volunteers as junior nature guides, building soft skills like communication and teamwork, while tripling Rimba Ilmu’s capacity to accommodate guided tours. He also facilitated novel approaches in garden interpretation, including two volunteer-led programmes: the creation of two new interpretive trails and Rimba Ilmu’s first garden theatre performance.

Guiding primary school children at the screwpine (Pandanus) clump at the fringes of Rimba Ilmu’s central wetland.
Tremendous public support at the launch of two new off-road trails in the garden, the Wild Fruits Trail and the K.M. Wong Botanist Trail—a student volunteer-led project overseen by Benjamin.
Addressing new undergraduates at a volunteer recruitment event in Rimba Ilmu.
Benjamin believes that the experience of a botanic garden should be multi-/polysensory. The tangy red shoots of asam gelugor (Garcinia atroviridis) are always a hit with visitors.

When Benjamin started out as a research assistant in 2014, he was tasked with raising awareness of Rimba Ilmu among the campus community and the general public. Going above and beyond that, he developed a plan to revitalise Rimba Ilmu. He identified and mobilised resources, introducing new services centred on volunteer engagement,
interdisciplinary work in the local urban ecological space, and public-oriented environmental education (EE) programmes.

In short, he is courageous, bringing hope and adding value, daring to go where complexity is high and certainty is low, without template, and where much faith is needed. In so doing, he has put Rimba Ilmu on the leading edge of conservation.

– Sugumaran Manickam

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