On 16th September 2015, the Upper Sixth Biologists traveled to Slapton Ley in Devon for 4 days of fieldwork. The purpose of the week was to learn more about ecology, data collection and statistical tests which will be useful in our A2 examinations. On our arrival at the field centre we were greeted by the site staff who made us feel at home and after a well deserved meal we got on with learning the key ecological terms we would be using throughout our stay.
The next day we ventured out to explore the rocky shore. Luckily, we had lovely sunny weather and stunning views of the Devon coastline. Our aim was to investigate the distribution and abundance of organisms on the rocky shore. We learnt about why the shore was so diverse and about the different microhabitats that could be found there. We used various sampling strategies to collect data which we could then use for statistical tests in the evening. We all enjoyed rock pooling and found lots of crabs, starfish and sea anemones. After an uphill walk back to the bus, the group were able to enjoy a well deserved ice cream!
We were next off to the ancient woods which the Slapton research centre had responsible for conserving, and a stream found there was to be used for data collection purposes. We were investigating the different freshwater invertebrates we could find in the microhabitats pools and riffles. A pool is a deeper and much slower flowing part of the stream where there is more detritus found in the water, potential for more invertebrates, whereas the riffle was faster flowing water usually with a rocky stream bed. We used random and stratified sampling methods to make sure there was no bias in our investigation. It was incredible the sheer number of organisms we found in the barest of places. We found a range of species from flatworms, a slow moving sluggish organism, to the Cased Caddis Fly Larva, which builds a perfectly cylindrical case out of tiny rocks and debris. We clambered back up another steep hill with our data and spent the early evening learning more statistical tests which helped us tremendously when back at the labs in school in the following week.
Alas, it was our last day and we made the best of the sunshine by going to the beach! As we walked down to the beach we were given informative talks on conservation methods that were used in the wet meadow and the tales of the illusive Large Blue Butterfly which went extinct in the 1970s. We also watched wildlife on the nearby Ley. Once at our destination, we began looking for signs of succession. We went right down to the shingle ridge and worked our way up the shore, across the road and right up close to the Ley. We recorded factors which would have affected the different plants we recorded in our table and we noted that the harsher the conditions, the fewer plants we saw.
Once our trip to the beach was over and sufficient data had been collected, we sadly gathered all our equipment and headed home. The first hand experience we gained on the trip will be invaluable in our exams and the thorough analysis using biological statistical testing methods was great. We’ll also never forget the wonderful and compassionate staff there who made it such a great trip.