Adam Walton, from BBC Radio Wales’ Science Cafe, visited Treborth, Bangor University’s botanic garden on the shores of the Menai Straits recently. He was there to dig into the Garden’s role in scientific research and conservation – and specifically its role in monitoring the cycle of the seasons: that means the timing of animal and plant species’ first appearance in spring and what those timings might tell us about the onset of climate change.

He meets Dr. Shaun Russell, Director of Treborth Botanic Garden, to consider the Garden’s three-fold purpose: for scientific research; as a teaching resource for students and as a place for the public to visit and enjoy.

Adam delves deeper into the Garden’s importance for long-term seasonal observations with Nigel Brown, former Curator of Treborth. Nigel introduces Adam to the science of phenology, the study of seasonal changes in plants and animals from year to year. Nigel explains how he’s noticed that many natural phenomena at Treborth now occur much earlier in the year than they used to, from the blooming of magnolia trees to the appearance of frogspawn in the pond. Moth expert Charles Aron agrees – he coordinates the moth-trapping at the Garden and he’s seen the range of several species move further north and west over the years. All these observations add to the evidence for long-term climate change.

Adam also meets Natalie Chivers, the current Curator at Treborth, to find out about the Garden’s conservation work. She shows him one of their success stories: Meadow Clary, a type of sage which used to be common in Monmouthshire but which became rare almost to the point of extinction. It’s been grown and nurtured at Treborth and is now being re-introduced into the meadows of its native county.

Natalie also stresses the importance of Treborth as an arena for teaching students and getting them involved in conservation – and introduces Adam to one of those students, Mary Thornhill, who’s on an internship at the Garden.

Finally Adam re-joins Shaun Russell at the rhizotron, an underground tunnel which scientists use to study changes in the soil under different conditions. Shaun explains that the recent refurbishment of the rhizotron is just the first stage in some ambitious plans for Treborth, which include re-launching Botany as a degree course in Bangor and creating a tropical plant house and visitor centre for the public.

Listen to the programme here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m00035dk