Some feedback from our courses
"John's course is a brilliant way of learning at your own pace, a very good alternative to an intensive residential weekend. As a beginner, it's good to focus on species found near your home or in habitats you regularly visit, and with John on hand to help you identify these species you're on to a winner! John provides helpful detailed comments on your identification, which point out, in a positive and supportive way, where you have gone wrong, so you can avoid making those mistakes again. This is a really good way to learn. I thoroughly recommend his course. Thank you very much!" Catherine Mowat on our 'Identifying bryophytes in the field' distance learning course in 2021/2."The best course I have ever done, enjoyed it so much, it has given me confidence in my identification skills which I lacked and inspired me to keep improving. Thank you!" Anna Macfie on our 'Grass Identification and Ecology' distance learning course in 2021."This has been excellent. Bryophyte study is a new area for me and I was a little apprehensive at how successful this could be as a distance learning course, but it was really excellent. The exercises were clearly explained and well-paced, although it did mean you had to be self-driven. John is extremely patient and gives really useful and detailed feedback, which helped reinforce ID skills. I think the six month period was great too - long enough to really focus on this area of study. And I think your guidance about setting realistic targets was good too." Sarah Horton on our 'Identifying Bryophytes in the Field' distance learning course in 2020."Thank you for the feedback and thanks also for providing a very instructive and interesting course. Looking back through the notes I am reminded how little I knew about grasses when I started, compared with now - recognising of course how much more there is still to learn! I look forward to practising next spring."Rachel Huxham on our 'Grass Identification and Ecology' distance learning course in 2020."Overall I really enjoyed the challenge of doing this course. Your feedback has been really helpful and you have patiently explained details on the many samples I sent that were not on your 100 list." Royanne Wilding on our 'Identifying Bryophytes in the Field' distance learning course in 2019."I can't really emphasise enough how useful it is to me to be able to check these samples through your plant identification course. If you were not providing this support I'm not sure what I would do." James Brockbank on our 'General Plant Identification Support' distance learning course in 2019."In general I thought that it was very well structured with challenging questions and activities set that helped to stretch my knowledge and understanding of how the NVC works. You were always very prompt in responding with helpful feedback on my answers. I feel more confident at identifying NVC communities now. I think that distance learning over a longer period is a great way to learn as it spreads the learning over a longer time period and hopefully this helps to embed it more in the brain. " Nicole Dunn on our 'Identifying NVC communities' distance learning course in 2018."I have enjoyed the course - it is well structured which gives an incentive to get out and look for bryophytes. The feedback is good and very necessary as otherwise too many times one just goes round in circles without help. I think the course has left me wanting to do more." Margaret Harris on our 'Bryophyte Identification' distance learning course in 2017."I thought the course was brilliant. I enjoyed it and learnt a lot. I cannot think of a better way to learn how to identify bryophytes: picking a sample, trying to identify it and then obtaining feedback. This way one can learn from mistakes and gain confidence for the future while, at the same time, creating a collection of samples with confirmed identification which will be incredibly useful going forward." James Brockbank on our 'Bryophyte Identification' distance learning course in 2017."Easy to understand and good for beginners. Feel like I can continue with key and practise more." Jody Ferguson Cumbria Wildlife Trust, on our 'Introduction to sedge identification' course for CWT in 2016."Good mix of classroom/fieldwork, as well as sitting listening/doing work ourselves. The course was enjoyable and interesting. I felt confident in asking questions and felt that questions were answered fully and clearly" Laura Thompson on our 'Introduction to Phase 1 Habitat Survey' course for Econorth Ltd. in 2016."I really enjoyed keying out in the field. I liked the repitition of features and trying out surveying. John is an excellent, patient teacher." Ruth Starr-Keddle North Pennines AONB Partnership, on our 'Sphagnum Identification & Ecology' course in 2016."Thanks - Well designed course, as building on earlier elements. Good pace and materials. Great site for survey. Helpful & knowledgeable trainer. I have always wanted to do this course - its on my small bucket list." Clare Ross on our 'Introduction to Phase 1 Habitat Survey' course in 2016."Best ecological training bar none! Your knowledge and experience of a vast range of ecological methods and concepts is unsurpassed and your ability to communicate them in an engaging and informative way is amazing. Ptyxis courses should be a part of every ecologist's professional development!" David Morley Head of Conservation, H & H Land and Property Ltd, on our 'Understanding NVC' course in 2016."The course was well structured and well delivered. I would recommend the course to any professional ecologists undertaking Phase 1 surveys." James Bird BSc(Hons) ACIEEM Consultant Ecologist on our 'Grasses, sedges & rushes for Phase I habitat survey' course in 2014."Really good course to give ideas of uses/incorrect uses of NVC in particular. Good to do it all manually." Genevieve Dalley on our 'Understanding NVC for surveyors and conservation land managers' course in 2014."Very good. The key is very clear with lots on indicators and clues regarding field variation. John - very patient, willing to answer questions and sympathetic/understanding when difficult to see characteristics, e.g. stem leaves. He has lots of suggestions of ways to help you see them. Also - a good amount of repetition on most common mosses so we could reiterate what we had learnt. And not too many mosses - did not feel he was on a mission to find as many mosses as possible. The emphasis was on teaching, not moss-spotting" Helen Adamson PhD student & Lecturer, Newcastle University, on our 'Sphagnum identification & ecology' course in 2014."Lots of opportunities to ask questions. I feel confident in understanding Phase 1 surveys and mapping after the course and feel that my approach to the survey will be more consistent in future." Catherine Charles on our 'Introduction to Phase 1 Habitat Survey' course for Econorth Ltd. in 2016."Much more confident when faced with a field full of green grass that I will be able to identify most of the species using the information/knowledge & keys supplied on this course. Teacher very patient and went over open and closed sheaths repeatedly." Zoe Foster on our 'Grasses, sedges & rushes for Phase I habitat survey' course in 2014."Really well-presented & simplified a lot of complicated things." C Langdon on our 'Understanding NVC for surveyors and conservation land managers' course in 2014."Brilliant 2 days. Lots new learning. Informative, practical, fun, challenging. Excellent learning environment. Great teaching too." Lizzie Maddison on our 'Introduction to bryophytes' course for the North Pennines AONB Partnership's Wildwatch project in 2014.
"Explained how NVC works in an easy to understand way. Practical exercises highlighted pitfalls & fact that there's no perfect answer sometimes. Really enjoyed constructing floristic tables from own data as made interpreting data much easier than relying on Tablefit. Overall a thorough, well-planned course." Andrew Skinner on a 'NVC survey' course we devised and ran for RSPB staff and trainees in 2013.
"Extremely well-delivered course. Content was excellent and appropriate. Overall a very good course indeed and I would recommend this to anybody interested in developing their skills & knowledge in this discipline." William Bartholomew Lead land management & conservation adviser, Natural England, North Yorkshire, on our 'Introduction to bryophytes' course in 2012.
"I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed your course! I was walking through the fields to my allotment on Sunday morning and the sheer thrill of realising that I could identify (not recognise!) a lot of the grasses, and knew how to go about identifying the others which I didn’t know was, quite honestly, a revelation. It was the most magical moment!" Charlotte Weightman RSPB Twite Recovery Project, on Grass Indicators in Flower 2011.
Courses (for course details and how to book, see below)
All of our Ptyxis courses advertised here are now delivered by distance learning.
These courses are aimed mainly at early-career ecologists and amateur botanists who wish to develop their field skills further. Each course gives you detailed feedback on your fieldwork for six months. Most of the courses work best after you have already had an introduction to the subject, to support you as you advance to the next level.
Our distance learning courses are ideal for those who learn best through 'active learning'. The course materials focus on the most important features and are presented in a user-friendly way. The courses are built around structured field assignments (or case studies) encouraging you to apply your learning to real-world problems all the way through. We give you detailed feedback on the work you submit during each course unit. This is often when the most useful learning takes place.
On average, each course comprises 4 or 5 units of 3 to 5 hours study each. But the courses are designed to be flexible, so participants vary in how much time they put into the course. Most of the courses also include free identification support for 6 months for additional specimens on top of what you find during the course field exercises.
Please contact us if you would like more information on any of the courses.
How to Book on a distance learning course
NB By booking on one of our courses you agree to our booking conditions.
Email us at email@example.com to
- Check that there are places available;
- Tell us which course(s) you wish to book on;
- Tell us which payment method you will use.
- Pay online via Paypal – select your course below;
- To pay by direct electronic transfer email us for our bank details;
- To pay by cheque, send cheque to the address on the contacts page. Please make cheques payable to John O'Reilly.
NB Bookings are confirmed only after payment has been received.
Distance learning courses for 2023 and 2024:
Grass identification & ecology - £310
This course will enable you to identify common grasses in flower. We concentrate on key indicator species, i.e. species that tell you something useful about the habitat type (including Phase 1 habitats), soil pH, or land management. The course activities will develop your skills with examining key parts (both vegetative and flowering) of grasses used in identification.
Next Dates: May to October 2023
Sedge identification & ecology - £310
This course will enable you to identify common sedges in flower. We focus on the top 56 most common species from the sedge family in Britain. The course materials include a new key to common sedges that avoids using some of the more difficult characters found in other sedge keys.
Next Dates: May to October 2023
Understanding & using the NVC - £310
This course will develop your skills at identifying NVC communities and sub-communities and deepen your understanding of how the NVC system works. We concentrate on how to analyse quadrat data to work out what NVC types you have, rather than on how to do a NVC field survey. In particular, you will practice interpreting floristic tables of quadrat data and relating those data to the NVC classification. You will also sort and construct your own floristic tables.
This course is designed as a follow-on to an introductory NVC course to give you support with using the NVC, so at least some prior knowledge of the NVC system is essential.
Next Dates: May to October 2023
General plant ID support - £310
This course will develop your skills at identifying vascular plants or bryophytes in the field (and/or under the microscope). This is not a formal, structured course with a set curriculum. Instead, each participant will have a different experience depending on which group(s) of plants they want to tackle. We will help you at the start to set objectives to suit your particular learning needs. You can use this course to help with developing your plant identification skills generally, or to help with particular groups of plants that you find difficult, such as grasses, sedges, ferns, charophytes or bryophytes.
You can send us up to 50 specimens for feedback during the 6 months. You can start in May (vascular plants) or October (bryophytes), or contact us if you want to start at another time.
If you don't want to enroll for the full course, but could do with ID help for a small number of specimens, we provide an ID service (with feedback) for £12 per specimen. Email us for details.
Dates: Contact us to agree a starting date
Identifying bryophytes in the field - £310
This course will enable you to identify common bryophytes in the field. We focus on the 'top 100' species useful for ecological surveys, i.e. common indicator species for BAP Priority habitats and NVC communities. As well as being the most useful species to learn, these species that grow on soil are easier to tackle compared to species that grow on trees, rocks or articifial surfaces. Sphagnum species are covered in a separate course (see below). The course does not cover microscopic identification and we assume that you don't have access to microscopes.
Dates: October 2023 to March 2024
Sphagnum identification & ecology: Full course - field & microscopic identification - £310
This course will enable you to identify common Sphagnum species. Individual Sphagnum species can be useful indicators of habitat condition in bogs and other wetland habitats. Course materials include a new field key to all British Sphagnum species, including information on the ecology of each species. This course covers both field identification and microscopic identification, so you will need access to low and high power microscopes and to "The moss flora of Britain and Ireland" by AJE Smith. If you don't have access to microscopes, see our short course below.
Dates: October 2023 to March 2024
Sphagnum identification & ecology: Short course - field identification only - £180
This course will enable you to identify common Sphagnum species in the field. Individual Sphagnum species can be useful indicators of habitat condition in bogs and other wetland habitats. Course materials include a new field key to all British Sphagnum species, including information on the ecology of each species. This course covers field identification only.
Dates: October 2023 to March 2024
Ecological monitoring: How to design a successful scheme? - £310
This course will enable you to design an ecological monitoring scheme for a case study site of your choice, by applying 5 key monitoring principles. These key principles are informed by statistics, but no prior knowledge of scientific monitoring or statistics is needed. We focus on designing the monitoring scheme so that you end up with data that are useful for answering your monitoring questions. We don't cover how to carry out statistical analyses of monitoring data. The course is aimed at site managers and conservation professionals interested in monitoring how their sites are doing.
Dates: October 2023 to March 2024
PTYXIS specialises in detailed botanical surveys, data analysis and habitat management advice, offering affordable and reliable ecological services.