Marsh Award for Education in Botanic Gardens

The Award, run in partnership with Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI), recognises an individual in the early to mid-stages of their career who has made an outstanding contribution to promoting public awareness of the importance of plants in various ways, including undertaking impactful education activities within a botanical garden.

Nominations are submitted through BGCI’s membership network. They are judged by the BGCI International Advisory Council before being submitted to the MCT for final judging.

Visit BGCI’s website for more information on how to nominate.

Pictured: Iwa Kolodziejska, 2016 winner

Benjamin Ong 2019

Benjamin Ong founded and developed the Rimba Project at Rimba Ilmu Botanic Gardens, a platform for community engagement and volunteer development, between 2014 and 2018. He helped train student volunteers as junior nature guides, and tripled Rimba Ilmu’s capacity to accommodate guided tours. He also facilitated novel approaches in garden interpretation, through two volunteer-led programmes: the creation of two new interpretive trails, and Rimba Ilmu’s first garden theatre performance.

Benjamin led the Greening Roundtable, a series of consultative meetings with the University of Malaya (UM)’s Estates Department to influence and improve campus greenspace management. This resulted in a framework for campus greening that introduced biodiversity impact assessments into UM’s pre-development checklist. He also ran several volunteer-powered pilot biodiversity surveys for Estates, including a landmark study on a 30-acre land bank known as Section 12 that helped convince UM to shelve a $300,000 development project.

In early 2018, he coordinated the Klang Valley’s participation as the first Southeast Asian metro in the City Nature Challenge, a global citizen science initiative. Nearly 400 students across 14 schools participated, putting urban ecology on the map and leading to Benjamin’s appointment as a Google Earth for Education Expert. In a volunteer capacity since late 2018, he developed Backyard Explorers, a modular education programme covering topics from freshwater to wildflowers. In diversifying and building environmental education capacity, Benjamin has helped revive public interest in Rimba Ilmu.

Through his book, The Backyard Before You. He has brought together interdisciplinary audiences from urban farmers and local authorities, to indigenous researchers and landscape designers, to address emerging challenges like urbanisation and growing disconnect from nature. He has organised seminars; co-authored systems thinking case studies linking greenspace with urban wellbeing; and coordinated an ongoing wildflower rediscovery project. In all of this, he is developing a new language for conservation: reframing where biodiversity is, who engages with it, and how it may be conserved.

Previous Winners

Clemmie Borgstein

Clemmie planned and constructed an ethnobotanical garden based on medicinal plant use in East Kalimantan, Indonesia, as the final internship for her master’s degree in Forest and Nature Conservation. The garden offers locals a space to reconnect with nature and the trail through the garden encourages environmental education about the importance of the forests and their preservation, medicinal plant use and plant species that are under threat of extinction. The garden is free to all and open daily and welcomes around 70,000 people each year.

Clemmie composed a database of medicinal plant use from which plants were chosen to grow in the garden through a literature review and extensive discussions with the local community. She undertook the spatial planning and design as well as the building and planting of the beds which hold over 70 species of plants. Her openness and dedication allowed an organic unfolding of the process between the people and their knowledge of the plants, which took root and has now flowered into a rich engagement.

Amy Padolf

In her role as Director of Education at the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Miami, Amy Padolf is at the centre of a successful and diverse community engagement and education programme which has won the Garden much press interest.

Amy oversees national and international multidisciplinary environmental science education programmes for young people of all ages, encourages professional development in the field for teachers, adult education programmes and community gardening schemes.

Iwa Kolodziejska

Iwa has been involved with the Botanic Garden at the University of Warsaw for thirteen years, where she has developed a range of initiatives to protect and grow species using limited resources. She enables communities to engage with the botanic garden and has particularly encouraged hard-to-reach groups including young people and refugees.

Iwa has spoken at a number of high profile events to a range of audiences – her presentation at BGCI’s 8th International Congress in 2012 is still spoken about today. It was largely due to her impressive contributions that the University of Warsaw was chosen to host the 10th International Congress.

Sophie Williams

Sophie has carried out some highly influential work in the fields of education and plant conservation. Her work focuses on the interaction of social and ecological systems, how environmental education and training can influence human behaviour and the underlying social reasons for the over-exploitation of plant resources around the world.

Sophie’s commitment to plant conservation has been evident in a number of aspects of her career and she is an inspiration to students both in the UK and China. She has helped establish the first training programme for educators in botanic gardens across China and has produced a number of publications in which she acts as an advocate for education in botanic gardens.

Wang Ximin

Wang has developed a wide range of educational programmes relating to rare plant species and nature conservation at the Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden, which draw in children, families and young people, as well as over 600,000 tourists from all over the world.

In order to engage with the local communities more effectively, Wang and his colleagues launched a series of conservation-based lectures for local schools, which linked the students’ daily life with biodiversity conservation. The lectures were attended by hundreds of students in 2013.