Integrated Natural Sciences went on a field trip
At the start of term 3 this year, the Integrated Natural Sciences students (including me) went on an ecology field trip to Pembrokeshire. This field trip is an annual one, run for students taking the Life Sciences module ‘Ecological Principles and Processes’. They very kindly let us join, despite our limited knowledge of ecology. Here’s how it went!
About the trip
The trip was one week long, and based in the Field Studies Council property Dale Fort. This is just outside the very small, coastal village of Dale. Each day, we did one or two different data-gathering activities, and a bit of data analysis. This included: sampling plants on a salt marsh; counting plants and animals found on the rocky shore; crabbing; Seine-netting, and analysing plankton samples under a microscope. We also had a day trip to the nearby island of Skomer.
All food was provided for us for free, and we slept in shared dormitories. (It felt quite a lot like primary school residential, in many ways). There was also a bar, which sold a range of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drink and snacks, and a common room.
At the end of the trip, we had a couple of reports to write. The other students wrote three shorter reports, based on their data; we INS students wrote two slightly longer reports.
What was good
Overall, this trip was really good fun!
- We got to actually get to know some other students — very challenging during Covid.
- The food was very nice (cooked breakfast every morning yes please) and they were really accommodating to dietary requirements (I’m a vegan and did not starve).
- Lots of time out and about, learning to identify plants and animals and climbing over rocks. I very much enjoy this sort of stuff.
- Gorgeous location.
- The trip to Skomer was really good. It’s a historically and ecologically interesting island. We got right up close to puffins (that’s my own photo), and saw a number of other rare birds.
What was less good
- The timing of the trip — a couple of weeks before exams and a big deadline, for us — was not too great, as we couldn’t relax and enjoy ourselves as much as we’d have liked.
- There wasn’t much opportunity to be alone during the trip. It was fairly tightly scheduled, and we were in dormitories. I found this a little overwhelming (I did manage to take myself for a little run around the village one evening, though, which was very nice).
- There were a few INS-specific problems. Our course was supposed to be doing its own thing on the trip, but unexpected circumstances meant we joined in with the other students instead. My lack of familiarity with ecological terms and concepts, and statistics, meant I had to learn quite a lot on the fly. This made it a bit more stressful than it could have been. We’ve fed this back to our course director, so hopefully this will be a bit better next year.
Overall though, the trip was really good fun and I felt lucky to have been able to go on it.