Martin Gardner, Co-ordinator of the International Conifer Conservation Programme at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, has received an MBE in the Queen's 2013 New Year Honour's List in recognition for services to horticultural conservation.
Martin joined RBGE in 1991 and much of his work over the past 22 years has involved collaborating with a wide range of RBGE staff as well as public and private land owners throughout Britain and Ireland in developing a network of over 200 safe sites for threatened conifers. This network is widely recognised as one of the most comprehensive ex-situ conservation networks for threatened woody plants anywhere in the world and now contains 50% of the world's critically endangered conifer species. Martin's work has taken him to over 30 countries.
Commenting on his award, Martin said: "I am delighted to receive the MBE, both for myself and for the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. The award is as much for the institution I work for and for conservation itself.''
Martin, who works with the iCONic Project, a Perthshire Big Tree Country initiative, and his colleague Tom Christian, who leads the project, will be visiting Chile later this month with the primary aim of collecting seed from the threatened Chilean plum yew (Prumnopitys andina) from a valley which is due to be flooded in 2015 as part of a hydro-electric scheme. The conservationists will also be collecting seeds and cuttings from other species facing other environmental threats.
Chile has been the main focus of Martin's research. Through a number of UK Government-funded projects he has co-ordinated capacity-building programmes which have promoted conservation through education and research initiatives. Martin is secretary of the International Union for Conservation and Natures's (IUCN) Conifer Specialist Group and through this, in collaboration with his colleagues, he has recently completed assessments for the world's conifer species. The work that Martin and his team are undertaking is helping to guide conservation policy for the sustainable management of natural genetic resources.
From an early age Martin was surrounded by horticulture having been brought up on his father's market garden and at the age of nine moving to the National Vegetable Research Station at Wellesbourne where his father had gained employment. Acquiring knowledge of plants, both cultivated and wild, became increasingly important for his voluntary work with the British Trust for Ornithology. This involved keeping bird nest records and the Latin names of trees and shrubs in which birds nest. In 1973 he started a two year practical horticulture course at the Royal Gardens, Windsor after which he graduated from a diploma course at Askham Bryan College for Horticulture in York.
After graduating from the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh's Diploma in Horticulture course with a distinction, he gained a taste for tropical fieldwork in Sabah, North Borneo, where over a period of two months he made research collections for RBGE.
Martin's horticultural career started by establishing an extensive nursery production unit at Windsor Great Park where he eventually became Assistant Keeper. During this 13 year period he spent his vacations travelling to 13 European countries with his wife Sabina, a floristic researcher, who works with the Centre of Middle Eastern Plants (CMEP) at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.