Opportunities to Volunteer

We encourage individuals to support our activities through becoming a volunteer. Volunteers support the work of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh in many ways. The main role of the volunteer is to increase the educational value, interest and enjoyment of a visit to the Garden. This includes explaining the vital role of plants in everyday life and the need to ensure better management of the world's resources.

At present volunteers operate within various areas of the Garden including Horticulture, Science Communication, Events, Herbarium and Library. Herbarium volunteers assist with the mounting and curation of specimens, and Library volunteers usually work in the Archives or Illustrations collections. All opportunities to volunteer will be fully advertised below when they arise.


Herbarium Curatorial Volunteer

RBGE Herbarium Collections

The Herbarium at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) holds approximately 3 million specimens of plants and fungi from around the world. The collections cover over 300 years of plant diversity (the oldest specimen dates from 1697) and we continue to receive up to 30,000 specimens each year.

We are currently looking for a volunteer to help to incorporate specimens into the collections; this will enrich and increase the collection's accessibility for crucial scientific research.

For a full description of the duties involved and the skills required please follow the link Herbarium Curatorial Volunteer

If you wish to apply for this volunteering position, please complete the application form linked here- Application Form  and return this to volunteering@rbge.org.uk before Friday 5 August. If you have not heard anything back from us by  19 August you must assume that your application was unsuccessful.

Be part of our British Data Blitz Project!

Come and spend two weeks with us at the Botanics to experience working with a world class research collection and help us digitise it to make it accessible to the global scientific community.

What collection will you be working on?

You will be digitising specimens from the British Isles within our Herbarium.

What is a Herbarium?

A herbarium is a collection of preserved plant specimens stored, catalogued and arranged systematically. The specimens that are held in the herbarium are a working reference collection used in the identification of plants, the writing of Floras (a description of all the plants in a country or region), monographs (a description of plants within a plant group, such as a family) and the study of plant evolutionary relationships. This fundamental research provides an essential baseline for other plant research. We need to know what species exist, how many individuals of each there are, and where they are distributed before we can conserve them or explore their potential for medicinal use. We are a leading botanical collection and our herbarium is one of the largest in the world containing approximately 3 million specimens, and representing half to two thirds of the world’s flora. Every year many researchers from around the world visit to study our specimens.

Why digitise them?

Digitisation increases the accessibility of our research collections facilitating access to both national and international researchers across the globe. By capturing specimen information digitally, researchers are able to build a picture of a species’ historical distribution; these can be compared to current distributions to see if any changes have occurred such as a decline in numbers. Specimen labels may also provide clues to help explain these changes, for example, habitat information recorded at the time of collection can be compared with current land use in the same locality. Thus digitisation helps inform and target conserve efforts protecting plant species for future generations.

And as a thank you …

As part of the project we will be arranging several behind the scenes tours at the Botanics and volunteers will be able to attend talks by researchers on cutting edge plant science.
For full details of the role, please see this link British Data Bio Blitz Information, should you wish to apply, please complete an Application Form and return it to s.king@rbge.org.uk. Applications should be made before Friday 12th August. If you have not heard anything by Friday 19th August, you must assume that you have not been selected for this role.

Schools placements are co-ordinated through Career Development Edinburgh and Lothians.

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Bill Jeffrey and Maureen Brazier, volunteers at Dawyck Botanic Garden, taking a well-earned break from weeding the Nepalese area.

The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is a charity (registration number SC007983)