Volunteer Profile: Gart Bishop

 Meet Gart, a renowned botanist in New Brunswick and an advocate for getting outside to learn about plants.  

Gart is an active volunteer and member of the ‘Friends of the Herbarium’.  He  has a vast knowledge of the vascular plants including the challenging group of graminoids (grasses, sedges and rushes).   Gart acquired his scientific expertise by self-study over many years of working through the plant keys, botanical surveys, attending workshops and collaborating with botanists.   

He plays a vital role in the Herbarium, leading small groups of  volunteers out to unique sites in New Brunswick to identify and collect. As of November 2022, Gart  has collected over 3,370 specimens that reside in the Connell Memorial Herbarium. He also participates in the plant identification sessions held monthly called ‘Botany Blast’, which are open to the public. Often one can find Gart helping out a newcomer in working through the plant keys.  All agree that he is a gifted  teacher with experience developed during his years as Instructor of the UNB botany fieldcourse, “NB Plants”.   He finds it exciting to take an unknown plant specimen and compare it to a range of confirmed examples in a herbarium.  “It blows the buttons off your shirt!”, he says.

Gart was born in Toronto during the 1950’s.  After high school, his interest in forestry brought him to UNB, however it was a BSc in Geology that he acquired in 1976.   He became good friends with another geology student at the time, Bruce Bagnell.   Geological work in the private industry took him to the Yukon for 3 years.   In 1982 he returned to New Brunswick and worked in Sussex as a cabinet maker.  He joined many NB nature clubs and learned as much as he could from the expert naturalists in the province.  It was during this time that Gart fell in love with plants and with a local school teacher.  He married Allison McArthur.   

By 1988  his geology friend, Bruce Bagnell had returned to NB and was also interested in plants.    They spent two summers documenting the plants in the West Quaco area.   Their detailed botanical survey and acquired knowledge led them to meet members of the NB Museum, Stephen Clayden and Don McAlpine.   Gart found botanical work with DNR for two summers and Bruce was working with Stephen Clayden on bryophytes.  Later, he and Bruce Bagnell formed a botanical survey company,  B&B Botanicals.   This successful venture provided many important plant surveys for government departments and land trusts for the next 20 years.   

Gart gives credit to those who have helped him over the years, especially the three big ones: Hal Hinds, Jim Goltz and Stephen Clayden who offered their time so freely.   He also credits the wonderful nature groups of New Brunswick and is thankful for his own love of getting outside. 

Text: Susan Belfry Photos: Robyn Shortt Date: Nov 16, 2022