Biology Field Trip to Juniper Hall

At Downe House, fieldwork is an integral part of the biology curriculum and we believe that it fosters a creative and investigative approach to learning practical skills and techniques as well as engaging students in a rich practical experience that goes above and beyond what they learn in the classroom. At the weekend, the Upper Sixth Form girls set off for a residential weekend course at Juniper Hall which is operated by the Field Studies Council and set in an unspoilt area of the chalk North Downs close to stunning deciduous woodlands, rivers and grasslands.

Upper Sixth Form girl, Elizabeth Tatham, reports on the weekend,

“Our early morning departure at 8am marked the beginning of a very busy and eventful weekend. On arrival, it was straight to the classroom for an Introduction to Ecology, and to Core Practical 15 (Investigate the effect of different sampling methods on the estimates of size of a population). Soon we were halfway up Box Hill and got to work using quadrats of all shapes and sizes to count, estimate and measure biotic and abiotic factors. Getting down and counting individual clovers in a square metre quadrat was probably a mistake, but it was entertaining nonetheless. We then returned to the classroom to analyse our data and then could see our mistake in the huge error bars we drew up. After a refreshing cake break, we had an Introduction to Statistics and we learned how to use the ‘t-test’ on our data and when to use different sampling methods in quadrats.

We went to check the mammal traps set the previous night and found a couple of Short-tailed voles and were thoroughly looking forward to seeing what we would find the following morning. On Sunday, we discovered that the majority of the mammal traps strewn across the wooded area, but even so we did catch a few rodents and Ella managed to trap a mouse that had given birth to a tiny hairless baby during the night!

We then headed to the classroom for an Introduction to Succession, and later we took the scenic route to Mickleham Downs, where we measured abiotic factors and species density on an interrupted belt transect. No doubt improved in our efficiency after Saturday’s fieldwork, we headed back down to complete our data analysis and risk assessment, compiling an alarmingly long list of potential hazards that we had miraculously avoided while data collecting.

At the end of the day, we summarized, justified and evaluated our methods in many ways, learning useful skills for our Paper 3, were introduced to the Chi-Squared test and we even got to feed the already plump goats!

Overall, the fieldwork course really helped improve our understanding of ecology and gave us the extra detail and skills we will need when answering questions. Even though we were exhausted by Sunday’s close, it was an experience well worth it.”

Posted: 10th Oct 2017

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