Fieldwork for Biological Sciences students
Having recently finished my lab report for the latest fieldwork project, I thought that this would be a good time to tell you about the fieldwork that we carry out as part of the Biological Sciences degree. I like how the scales of our labs are so varied: in one lab we may be cloning cDNA whilst in another looking at responses of mutated plants. For fieldwork, the scales are even greater and can include looking at our results from an ecosystem perspective.
We do 2 fieldwork labs during the degree: in my Second Year we went to Pembrokeshire and in Third Year (last month), it was more local, at the River Dene in Wellesbourne, 14 miles from campus.
Pembrokeshire Field Trip
This was a residential trip to Dale Fort Field Centre which is located in the small village of Dale, and it took place just after the Easter vacation. This was probably because the weather would be as good as it would get for Wales! There were two components to the fieldwork: 1) to study the differences in the abundance and distribution of organisms on a rocky shore on an exposed beach vs a sheltered beach; and 2) to examine the succession of a sand dune.
Over the course of the field trip, we used quadrats to sample the areas, and used guides to identify the organisms. This was interesting as we found creatures such as anemones, crabs, mollusks with pretty shells. I can now identify different species of plants growing on sand dunes- this may prove useful sometime!
Back at the Field Centre we would be welcomed with afternoon tea and cake (very appreciated), and have classes including conducting the statistical analysis on our class data and lectures about the rocky shore. Apart from doing the fieldwork itself, we did have some other activities such as taking a boat across to Skomer island and seeing the wildlife such as puffins, seals and Manx shearwater, but also getting soaking wet with rain and getting cold – but this is to be expected from a field trip, right? We also had the chance to go crabbing and collect plankton from the sea. After the trip, we had to each write up a report about the findings of our rocky shore study, and design a poster about sand dune succession. It was also great getting to know new people on my course.
River Dene Field Trip
The fieldwork for this was carried out for just half a day, with the rest of the week spent in the labs analysing our samples. The aim of this fieldwork was to see if the effluent from a sewage treatment plant influenced the pollution status of this river. I particularly enjoyed this lab as it was so varied- we plated our batches of river water onto agar plates to culture bacteria; we identified the macroinvertebrates living in the river bed; and we used a colorimetric assay to measure the nitrate and phosphate concentrations. We then had to use statistical tests, and write up the report. As there was a lot of work involved, we were given a generous amount of time to write it up, but I advise doing reports as soon as you can when it is still fresh in your mind and perhaps before other deadlines creep up on you.
There are also opportunities for optional trips: In the second year, there was the opportunity to go to the Centre of Marine Biology in Brazil for a marine biology field course (you do have to pay for this) and also to enforce what we had learned from our Evolution lectures in Second Year, there was a trip to the Oxford Museum of Natural History.
Until next time 🙂