A TALENTED student from Ventnor is celebrating after winning a top wildlife award — thanks to his in depth knowledge of fungi.

George Greiff, 22, of Gills Cliff Road is now in his first year at Oxford University doing a degree in biology. Last month, he won the adult newcomer award developed by the National Biodiversity Network, the National Forum for Biological Recording and the Biological Records Centre for his pioneering work in wildlife recording.

Prior to taking up his place at Oxford, George took it upon himself to record wildlife and to share his information with others, specialising in obscure groups of plants, mosses, liverworts, lichens and the fungi which live on them.

His interest was sparked two years ago after he had spent his bus fare money on a bar of chocolate. He was forced to walk home and while it was raining, he took shelter under a bridge at Wroxall where he spotted an unusual plant growing on the bridge.

He said: "It spiralled out of control from there."

Through the use of social media George, who grew up and went to school in South Africa, developed a remarkable expertise in the plants and has discovered quite a few which are new to the Island, one or two which are first for the UK and even some new to science.

He has recently compiled a paper on the bryophyte flora of the Sandown Bay area of the Isle of Wight. He is developing an interest in lichenicolous fungi – an area that even experienced lichenologist know little about. Almost all of George’s records have been new for the Isle of Wight

He added: "The Isle of Wight has been a wonderful base for local recording and identification of the groups of organisms I am most interested in – bryophytes and ascomycetes, including the fungal parasites of bryophytes and lichens.

"I am thinking of specialising in fungi. there is a lot of biotech going on at the moment and they are looking into new options for developing antibiotics."