Bespoke courses

Would you like us to run a course for your own organisation? We can design courses to suit your particular needs. Contact us for a quote.

Some feedback on our courses

"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, 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.
"The course covered all the necessary legal issues for the work I do for my company relating to protected species and sites. Case study activities were very good as they encourage you to assess for yourself and provoke questions about issues you have at work." Sarah Carver, Environmental Manager, FCC Environment plc.
"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 ragarding 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.
"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.
"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 wnet 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.


To book on a course, see our Courses page

Our Approach

All of our tutors (see below) are trained teachers as well as experienced ecologists:

Training and teaching is a core part of our full-time business, not an ad-hoc bit of extra work of an ecology consultancy or conservation organisation with other priorities.

You benefit from tutors accustomed to delivering to university quality & verification standards: we teach plant ecology, plant taxonomy, evolutionary biology, EIA and wildlife law on undergraduate biology courses and Masters courses in Ecosystem Management & Biodiversity Conservation, Biological Recording, and Environmental Management.

But we do not give lectures or just use the ubiquitous 'case study' workshops - our courses are different to what you will have experienced at many universities because they are learner-centered, using innovative professional teaching techniques. We teach each student simultaneously with the whole group, picking up on individual interests and needs - this takes extra effort, professional skill and regular practise. We are reflective practitioners and complete our own teaching skills CPD.

This makes a difference to your learning: read our student testimonials! These are comments from real people, originally provided anonymously on our course feedback forms, and included here with permission.

All of our courses qualify for Institute of Ecology & Environmental Management (IEEM) CPD and we issue a Certificate of Attendance.

Distance learning courses

If you are really motivated to develop your plant identification skills, then you will probably find the distance learning approach much better than attending a course. Going on a course gets you started, but it is very easy to forget most of what your learned if you don't get a chance to practise your new skills of if you have nobody who can check how you are doing.

Our distance learning courses give you support with your identifications for six months. You collect specimens on structured field exercises in your own time. You send the specimens to us along with your ideas about the identification and we give you detailed feedback.

As checking the identifications and providing feedback is quite time-consuming for us, the number of places is strictly limited on these courses.

Our Tutors

John bryologising in the North Pennines

John O'Reilly BA(Ed) MSc CEnv MCIEEM originally trained as a PE and Geography teacher with a degree in education. He normally runs between 10 and 20 botanical and habitat survey training courses every year.

In his survey work he specialises in detailed botanical and bryophyte surveys as well as National Vegetation Classification (NVC) surveys, being particularly interested in types of vegetation not described in the NVC system.

John is British Bryological Society (BBS) vice-county recorder for south Northumberland (VC67), a steering group member of the Bryophyte Ecology Group (BRECOG) and has contributed to the new BBS field guide.

He is also completing a Maths & Statistics OU degree, so is one of very few ecologists qualified to offer statstical services and advice on ecological monitoring design.

He has worked as an ecologist for Rural Develpment Service (now part of Natural England) in Newcastle and subsequently was a lead ecologist on the design of the Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) scheme, editing the Farm Environment Plan (FEP) handbook and designing the FEP condition assessment methodology.

Paul Losse

Paul Losse MSc MCIEEM has a Masters degree in Environmental Conservation and is a qualified professional trainer, certified by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. He has 12 year’s experience as a professional ecologist and was previously a professional trainer for 9 years. Designing and delivering ecological training courses is currently about 30% of Paul’s workload.

Since 2011, he has been a freelance ecologist and delivered a number of projects including phase 1 and 2 (NVC) surveys and designed a condition assessment protocol for County Wildlife Sites. Clients have included ecological consultancies, local authorities, landscape partnerships, the London Wildlife Trust and The Royal Parks. Paul also delivers number of ecological training events in subjects ranging from plant identification to habitat survey and GIS. Paul is also the trainer for the ‘Train the Trainer’, a CIEEM masterclass event.

For 8 years Paul worked as a Conservation Officer with English Nature and Senior Specialist (Land Management and Conservation) with Natural England and was responsible for a suite of SSSIs in Oxfordshire and later in London. He led the Nature Conservation and Land Management Team in Natural England’s London Region and chaired London’s Heathland Habitat Action Plan Working Group. He was responsible for Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) delivery in London.

Prior to working as an ecologist, Paul worked as a Training and Development Officer with the Employment Service. There his role included: delivery of developmental and procedural training events to junior and middle management; development, upkeep and evaluation of existing training events to ensure needs of trainees were met and; consultancy projects to establish training requirements and subsequently design and develop new training events.


Julia Quinonez

Julia Quinonez MSc MA MCIEEM relocated from Guatemala to Durham in 2006 and re-trained herself in the Botany and Ecology of the British Isles, through volunteering with Durham Wildlife Trust and assisting consultancies like Ptyxis.  Since 2008 she has delivered training in ecology and plant identification for volunteer groups, community groups, and charities and to young professionals.  She has also given support at Newcastle University in their botany module. Her work involves vegetation surveying, including condition assessments of magnesian limestone habitats, limestone pavement, as well as NVC, and Phase 1, mainly in the north east and west of the UK.

Before coming to live in the UK, Julia trained as a biologist in the Universidad Del Valle de Guatemala. She specialized in Botany of tropical forest and worked for 4 years in the Herbarium of the University.  Later, she pursued a master’s degree in Applied Ecology in the University of Georgia, USA with an interest in Ethnobotany and Applied Anthropology.

Back in Guatemala, she taught courses in Environmental Education, Sustainable Development and the Environmental Sciences at both undergraduate and graduate level. As well as becoming a botanical consultant for different companies, councils and charities.

In 2001 she came to Durham to do a master’s degree in Anthropology at Durham University, which allowed her to participate in research projects about plants used by indigenous groups and the use of forest products by community groups.

She belongs to the BSBI, is an active member of the Botany Group in the Natural History Society of Northumberland, and DWT botany group. She is also a full member of CIEEM.

PTYXIS specialises in detailed botanical surveys, data analysis and habitat management advice, offering affordable and reliable ecological services.