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.

Example bespoke courses

Cumbria Wildlife Trust Meadow Life project

This three-year volunteer training project began in 2013. Ptyxis designed three courses for volunteers involved in surveying sites for the Meadow Life project. The projected aimed to raise the profile of Cumbria's hay meadows. Volunteers were used to survey potential sites of interest and to monitor the condition of important meadow sites.

Two of our courses focussed on survey skills for meadow monitoring including meadow plant identification and monitoring skills such as estimating percentage cover of plant species in quadrats. We began with a two-day introductory course and followed up with a one-day course a few weeks later.

The third course dealt with road verges with important hay meadow type vegetation. Volunteers were required to map the vegetation types on the verges to NVC level. Considering that almost none of the volunteers had any experience with NVC this was ambitious! We devised a simplified method for mapping important meadow-type vegetation on road verges and trained the volunteers in this method.

All three courses were repeated in 2014 and will run again in 2015.


Phase 1 Habitat Survey IKM Consulting Ltd., Grangemouth, Scotland

In 2014 we ran a two-day Introduction to Phase 1 Habitat Survey course for staff at IKM Consulting in Grangemouth. The course was based on our well-established Phase 1 course from our own training programme, but adapted for the particular field sites at Grangemouth.

The course included a mixture of classroom and field-based sessions covering all of the basics thoroughly. Particular attention was given to tricky issues such as distinguishing different types of grassland and separating marsh, fens & marshy grassland.

On day two all of the participants did there own mini-surveys in small groups of part of the one of the field sites.

This course was delivered by our associate Paul Losse and here is some of the feedback from the course:

  • "Excellent, patient trainer who accomodated for a wide variety of expertise within the team. The course was informative, yet consise and didn't allow us to get bogged down with species ID." Lyndsey Stuart, Assistant Ecologist.
  • "As I had very little prior knowledge I found the course extremely helpful in giving me a baseline to build on. Also highlighted the areas where I require improvement, e.g. plant ID." Sara Toule, Graduate Ecologist.
  • "Really good course. Good balance of field & class. All good!" Adrian Taylor, Senior Ecologist.


Saltmarsh Plant Identification, Environment Agency

In 2009 we devised and ran a series of courses on saltmarsh plant ID for Environment Agency staff involved in monitoring saltmarsh vegetation as part of the protocol for Water Framework Directive monitoring. We repeated versions of these courses again in most years between 2012 and 2017.

The staff worked on various aspects of the marine and inter-tidal environments. They were mostly not specialists in terrestrial plant indentification, but they usually had good general taxomonic skills from dealing with algae and other organisms.

Two-day 'basic' and one-day 'intermediate' courses were devised and these were delivered at three locations in 2009: North Wales, The Severn and The Solent. The courses were mostly field-based after an initial introductory classroom session. We included quite a  bit of field revision on vegetative identification of important, superficially similar-looking species such as Festuca rubra, Juncus gerardii and Puccinellia maritima.

The course pack had specially prepared resources for identifying tricky slatmarsh plants, including:

  • A vegetative key to saltmarsh sedges;
  • Compare & contrast tables for large, rush-like plants of saltmarshes;
  • Compare & contrast tables for Agrostis and Alopecurus species;
  • Compare & contrast tables for couches Elytrigia species;
  • Resorces for identifying Chenopodium species, Cochlearia species, Limonium species and many more.


To book on a Ptyxis distance learning 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 and plant taxonomy on undergraduate biology courses and Masters courses.

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

These distance learning courses are mostly designed to follow on from an introductory face-to-face 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, or if you have nobody who can check how you are doing.

Many people find the distance learning approach much better than attending a course. You go at your own pace, in your own time. You tailor the course to meet your individual learning needs and the feedback you receive will be directly relevant to what you most want to learn.

Our distance learning courses give you support with your identifications/learning 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.

To book on a Ptyxis distance learning course, see our Courses page

Our Tutors

John bryologising in the North Pennines

John O'Reilly BA(Ed) BSc 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.



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