Field Skills

Sit a Field Identification Skills test

Dates for FISCs in 2016.

Apologies that there are no spaces left this year. Dates and booking details for 2017 will be posted here as soon as they become available. 

The skills pyramid

Explore the Skills pyramid

How do you know how good you are at  botany? How does a potential employer know what you are able to do? There are now few university degrees in Britain that provide the field identification skills that ecologists, conservationists and naturalists need, so it is difficult for employers to recruit suitably qualified people.

The situation is not much better in the voluntary sector. How can the BSBI know who is competent to do what? Botanical organisations have found it difficult to run ‘citizen science’ projects in recent years because few people have reliable identification skills, and many people do not have an accurate assessment of their abilities.

To address this deficit, the BSBI offers the Botanical Skills Pyramid, created for us by Sarah Whild and Sue Townsend. Everyone can be assigned to a level of the pyramid, from beginner to expert  and, once you know what skill level you are at, you can receive guidance on what you are qualified to do, and what you need to do to progress to a higher level.

We have also used FISC data to study the accuracy of recording by people of all skill levels, which is summarised n the poster below:

What is  a FISC

A Field Identification Skills Certificate is a simple, affordable test that determines your botanical skill level on a scale from 1 (beginner) to 5 (professional) with 6 being awarded in exceptional cases. It is becoming established as the industry standard for assessing botanical survey skills.

The aim of the FISC is to measure your skills in real-life situations. It must not form part of a training course because a FISC tests your long-term botanical ability on a wide range of plants, not your short-term memory.

A FISC lasts a day and is fun to do. One of our aims is to make people less fearful of being assessed. Our evidence shows that there is no-one who can identify all plants correctly, so you do not need to worry that you might not be perfect. Your results will be confidential. Some consultancies send their staff on a FISC every year, to encourage them to gain skills and make progress.

Each test starts with a lab session, where the candidates are asked to name fresh specimens of 30 species collected around the British Isles.

Next there is a site survey, where you spend a couple of hours recording as much as you can in a small, interesting site. We then compare what you have identified with what we know occurs there and work out what skill level you have.

  • Thursday 2nd June Maidstone
  • Saturday 2nd July  Leicester
  • Wednesday 6th July Shrewsbury 
  • Wednesday 13th July Shrewsbury
  • Saturday 16th July Maidstone 
  • Friday 12th August Shrewsbury. 

Find out more...


Because there is no failing, you don’t have to be brilliant to take a FISC. The outcome will be a certificate from the BSBI showing your level of skill, with advice about what sort of activity you are competent to undertake and what further studies you need if you wish to progress up the skills ladder.

Once you have taken a FISC, we take a couple of weeks to mark them and send you your certificate. We keep the results confidential, but you may publicise them to potential employers and colleagues if you like. Each certificate is signed by the chair of our Training & Education Committee, and it says what level you have attained and what you are qualified to do.

For more information about taking a FISC, or our research into Botanical Field Skills, contact Dr Sarah Whild at Manchester Metropolitan University.