Marsh Award for Education in Botanic Gardens

The Award, run in partnership with Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI), recognises an individual in the early to mid-stages of their career who has made an outstanding contribution to promoting public awareness of the importance of plants in various ways, including undertaking impactful education activities within a botanical garden.

Nominations are submitted through BGCI’s membership network. They are judged by the BGCI International Advisory Council before being submitted to the MCT for final judging.

Visit BGCI’s website for more information on how to nominate.

Pictured: Iwa Kolodziejska, 2016 winner

Rudy Aguilar 2022

Rudy has been working at the Belize Botanic Gardens (BBG) in Central America since 2010, and he is currently an Education Officer. Rudy has been the primary educator at BBG, developing courses and programs which train Belizeans with limited educational opportunities from low-income communities in organic horticulture and an appreciation for biodiversity. These courses and programmes are inclusive for both older and younger Belizeans and help them to gain employment, return to school for further education or aid in starting their own business. Rudy is now creating a small garden to be used for teaching local people to grow their own vegetables, while collecting data on the feasibility of growing food at home. Rudy uses the BBG to train guides for informative tours of the gardens and plays a key role in the native species collection and outreach programmes. For 4 years, Rudy hosted a weekly TV show called ‘The Garden Show’ to enhance wider public knowledge of BBG, encourage more local visitors and widen interest in horticulture. He has developed into an exceptional educator, leading the education and outreach programmes at BBG to inspire and educate Belizeans. His passion has been about giving Belizean communities the skills to grow their own food, to learn sophisticated horticultural skills and to show that organic farming is possible in a tough tropical environment. 

Previous Winners

Serena Dorigotti

Serena is a Senior Educator in Botany at L’Orto in Villa Botanic Garden. Over the last 10 years, she has designed and developed 26 new inspiring education activities for schools and over 60 events for the public which have engaged a wide range of audiences. She is committed to making plants relevant to the public, highlighting their use in everyday life and the importance of their conservation for sustainability. Popular topics of her events have included traditional and innovative use of plants in food and lifestyle, biodiversity tasting, natural dyes, plant hunting, berries festival, the use of hemp and flax ans even an action drama using vegetables for kids. Serena has contributed to the EU project INQUIRE, encouraging fruitful exchanges with educators from 16 other Botanic Gardens across Europe. She regularly builds capacity for education in botanic gardens across Italy, running workshops and presenting new ideas.

Since 2020, she has been developing a community garden in the suburbs of Trento, working with volunteers to engage locals and illustrate the importance of agrobiodiversity. She has been innovative in providing a range of activities for children and adults alike, which have engaged them in botanic conservation within the community. Serena has been crucial to raising the status of botanic garden education in Italy and regularly feeds innovative experience to the national network of botanic gardens. 

Tara Moreau

Tara joined the University of British Columbia’s Botanical Garden in 2014 as Associate Director of Sustainability and Community Programs and has expanded the gardens education and outreach programs which has resulted in wide-reaching community engagement relating to conservation and preservation on local, national and international scales. Tara’s programs are tailored to all ages and experiences and have generated £1,000,000 in donor funding due to their recognised need and potential for positive impact.  She has created important relationships with indigenous groups through program development and community engagement. Tara is sought out at regional, national, and international level as an expert in the fields of sustainability planning and programming for positive impact and has done international work as a consultant with the UN-Food and Agriculture Organization and at The UN High-Level Political Forum. She co-founded The American Public Gardens Association’s Food and Agriculture Community, and currently serves as the Community Chair using her connections to promote donor supported programming for children. Tara is a recipient of the City of Vancouver Award of Excellence, Greenest City Leadership Award which recognised individuals or groups who enhance action plan goals.  

Benjamin Ong

Benjamin Ong founded and developed the Rimba Project at Rimba Ilmu Botanic Gardens, a platform for community engagement and volunteer development, between 2014 and 2018. He helped train student volunteers as junior nature guides, and tripled Rimba Ilmu’s capacity to accommodate guided tours. He also facilitated novel approaches in garden interpretation, through two volunteer-led programmes: the creation of two new interpretive trails, and Rimba Ilmu’s first garden theatre performance.

Benjamin led the Greening Roundtable, a series of consultative meetings with the University of Malaya (UM)’s Estates Department to influence and improve campus greenspace management. This resulted in a framework for campus greening that introduced biodiversity impact assessments into UM’s pre-development checklist. He also ran several volunteer-powered pilot biodiversity surveys for Estates, including a landmark study on a 30-acre land bank known as Section 12 that helped convince UM to shelve a $300,000 development project.

In early 2018, he coordinated the Klang Valley’s participation as the first Southeast Asian metro in the City Nature Challenge, a global citizen science initiative. Nearly 400 students across 14 schools participated, putting urban ecology on the map and leading to Benjamin’s appointment as a Google Earth for Education Expert. In a volunteer capacity since late 2018, he developed Backyard Explorers, a modular education programme covering topics from freshwater to wildflowers. In diversifying and building environmental education capacity, Benjamin has helped revive public interest in Rimba Ilmu.

Through his book, The Backyard Before You. He has brought together interdisciplinary audiences from urban farmers and local authorities, to indigenous researchers and landscape designers, to address emerging challenges like urbanisation and growing disconnect from nature. He has organised seminars; co-authored systems thinking case studies linking greenspace with urban wellbeing; and coordinated an ongoing wildflower rediscovery project. In all of this, he is developing a new language for conservation: reframing where biodiversity is, who engages with it, and how it may be conserved.

Clemmie Borgstein

Clemmie planned and constructed an ethnobotanical garden based on medicinal plant use in East Kalimantan, Indonesia, as the final internship for her master’s degree in Forest and Nature Conservation. The garden offers locals a space to reconnect with nature and the trail through the garden encourages environmental education about the importance of the forests and their preservation, medicinal plant use and plant species that are under threat of extinction. The garden is free to all and open daily and welcomes around 70,000 people each year.

Clemmie composed a database of medicinal plant use from which plants were chosen to grow in the garden through a literature review and extensive discussions with the local community. She undertook the spatial planning and design as well as the building and planting of the beds which hold over 70 species of plants. Her openness and dedication allowed an organic unfolding of the process between the people and their knowledge of the plants, which took root and has now flowered into a rich engagement.

Amy Padolf

In her role as Director of Education at the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Miami, Amy Padolf is at the centre of a successful and diverse community engagement and education programme which has won the Garden much press interest.

Amy oversees national and international multidisciplinary environmental science education programmes for young people of all ages, encourages professional development in the field for teachers, adult education programmes and community gardening schemes.

Iwa Kolodziejska

Iwa has been involved with the Botanic Garden at the University of Warsaw for thirteen years, where she has developed a range of initiatives to protect and grow species using limited resources. She enables communities to engage with the botanic garden and has particularly encouraged hard-to-reach groups including young people and refugees.

Iwa has spoken at a number of high profile events to a range of audiences – her presentation at BGCI’s 8th International Congress in 2012 is still spoken about today. It was largely due to her impressive contributions that the University of Warsaw was chosen to host the 10th International Congress.

Sophie Williams

Sophie has carried out some highly influential work in the fields of education and plant conservation. Her work focuses on the interaction of social and ecological systems, how environmental education and training can influence human behaviour and the underlying social reasons for the over-exploitation of plant resources around the world.

Sophie’s commitment to plant conservation has been evident in a number of aspects of her career and she is an inspiration to students both in the UK and China. She has helped establish the first training programme for educators in botanic gardens across China and has produced a number of publications in which she acts as an advocate for education in botanic gardens.

Wang Ximin

Wang has developed a wide range of educational programmes relating to rare plant species and nature conservation at the Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden, which draw in children, families and young people, as well as over 600,000 tourists from all over the world.

In order to engage with the local communities more effectively, Wang and his colleagues launched a series of conservation-based lectures for local schools, which linked the students’ daily life with biodiversity conservation. The lectures were attended by hundreds of students in 2013.