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Helen Bostock

Helen is the Senior Wildlife Specialist, working with the Plant Health team to provide wildlife gardening expertise and lead on developing and delivering biodiversity positive targets for the RHS Science Strategy and Sustainability Strategy

What do you do?

I’m developing ways to better monitor biodiversity in the RHS Gardens and measure the impact of different wildlife gardening approaches such as allowing grass to grow long or leaving cutting back of borders to late winter. In the context of a global biodiversity crisis, I want to help gardeners become stewards of nature. Gardens may seem small and inconsequential but they are invaluable pockets of green space, especially in urban areas, full to the brim with a rich diversity of plants and animals. With good plant choicee and some tweaks to management practise, our extensive network of gardens in the UK can play a crucial role in supporting biodiversity and in turn bring us great joy and health benefits.

I am spokesperson for the RHS Plants for Bugs study, which was tasked with researching how the geographical origin of plants affects invertebrate abundance and diversity. I support the RHS Plants for Pollinators initiative which compiles lists of the best nectar- and pollen-providing plants for insects and I raise awareness of the importance of gardens and gardeners in our fight to protect UK wildlife through the Wild About Gardens Campaign.
 
Science needs communicating well to gardeners. I take pride in my role within the Plant Health team where I advise RHS members through the RHS Gardening Advice Service as well as improve online advice, which is accessible to all.

“Gardeners care about the impact they have on the environment and I’m excited to help develop this awareness and advise on how we might all improve our gardens for wildlife.”

Why is your team’s research important?

Gardeners and gardens are of huge importance to the environment and biodiversity. Small changes to the way we live can have a huge impact on our neighbourhood and the wildlife it supports. The work I am involved in helps give gardeners confidence to undertake gardening practises that help rather than hinder wildlife, choose the best plants for pollinating insects, or make decisions about whether to plant native or non-native plants to maximise their space for invertebrates.

Projects I’m working on now

Completed projects

  • Plants for Bugs: a project investigating invertebrate abundance and diversity in assemblages of native and non-native garden plant species
  • Blooms for Bees: a citizen-science app-based project to discover bumblebee flower preferences in gardens and allotments

Achievements

Receiving the Garden Media Guild’s Environmental Award for disseminating the results of the Plants for Bugs research was a huge achievement. The award is presented to work that is “inspiring, informative, entertaining and promotes a positive change”. I was thrilled to be nominated.

Publications

  • Anderson HB, Robinson A, Siddharthan A, Sharma N, Bostock H, Salisbury S, Roberts S, van der Wal R. (2020) Citizen science data reveals the need for keeping garden plant recommendations up-to-date to help pollinators. Scientific Reports 10, 20483
  • Padovani RJ, Salisbury A, Bostock H, Roy DB, Thomas CD. (2020) Introduced plants as novel Anthropocene habitats for insects. Global Change Biology, 26:97
  • Salisbury A, Al-Beidh S, Armitage J, Bird S, Bostock H, Platoni A, Tatchell M, Thompson K, Perry J. (2020) Enhancing gardens as habitats for soil-surface-active invertebrates: should we plant native or exotic species? Biodiversity and Conservation, 29:129–151
  • Falk S, Foster G, Comont R, Conroy J, Bostock H, Salisbury A, et al. (2019) Evaluating the ability of citizen scientists to identify bumblebee (Bombus) species. PLOS ONE, 14(6): e0218614.
  • Sharma N, Greaves S, Colucci-Gray L, Siddharthan A, Anderson H, Robinson A, Wibowo A, Bostock H, Salisbury A, Roberts S, Slawson D, van der Wal R. (2019) From citizen science to citizen action: analysing the potential for a digital platform to cultivate attachments to nature. Journal of Science Communication, 18 (1)
  • Wibowo A, Siddharthan A, Anderson H, Robinson A, Sharma N, Bostock H, Salisbury A, Comont R, van der Wal R. (2017) Bumblebee-friendly planting recommendations with citizen science data. [email protected]
  • Salisbury A, Al-Beidh S, Armitage J, Bird S, Bostock H, Platoni A, Tatchell M, Thompson K, Perry J. (2017) Enhancing gardens as habitats for plant-associated invertebrates: should we plant native or exotic species? Biodiversity Conservation, 26: p2657
  • Salisbury A, Armitage J, Bostock H, Perry J, Tatchell M, Thompson K. (2015) Enhancing gardens as habitats for flower-visiting aerial insects (pollinators): should we plant native or exotic species? Journal of Applied Ecology, 52, pp1156–64

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The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.