This past week has been insanely busy, I’ve learnt so much in just a week I’m not sure where to start but I think I’ll start on Friday of last week.
Last Friday myself and my other course friends were bundled up in to a mini van and we were off to the north coast of wonderful Norfolk! We reached our field centre and after a short break we left on our first outing to look at some salt marshes.
Salt marshes are an intriguing habitat, there aren’t that many plant species that can cope with quite hostile conditions.
The next morning started early with a walk down to the lake on the field centre we were staying at to pull in some nets placed the night before. We were looking for crucian carp and we found them. We weighed each fish, measured there length and then took a fish scale. The scale will help identify the age of the fish and from all this information you can look at the population trends in the lake. They are a really lovely fish and it’s great to see them doing well in the lake.
Later in the day we went to look at ponds at a farm. Ponds are an extremely important habitat. Ponds in the UK hold about 2/3 of aquatic taxa as well as providing an important feeding space for birds. Alot of ponds on UK farmland get scrubbed out and filled over, this is to make room for the growing machinery however at this farm ponds were being put in and the wildlife in these ponds is outstanding. We took water samples to do some water chemistry work as well as invertebrate sampling. I also found a couple of newts which is great news and shows how well these ponds are doing.
The following day was our rivers day. We were focusing on the River Glaven in Norfolk and had a talk from the Norfolk Rivers Trust about all the work they do to help the biodiversity of the river. That day we pulled in some eel nets and actually managed to catch one. It was the first time I had seen an eel in real life and it was amazing to see, they have a fascinating life cycle but I’ll save that another day. Then we went to another part of the
river to see a population of White Clawed Crayfish. These crayfish are the only native species and unfortunately have a declining population. This is mainly down to two reasons, the crayfish plague and invasive species mainly Signal Crayfish. Although at this part of the river the white clawed crayfish are doing well. We all donned on our waders (a particularly attractive look might I add) and used nets to catch the crayfish, we then sexed them and measured their length before returning them to their home.
A little further up the river we got to see some electrofishing being done. This is when you use an electric current in the river to stun the fish and get them to swim out of their hides. It doesn’t damage the fish in any way and gives a better representation as to the population of the river. We found bullhead fish as well as a beautiful trout.
Then we turned our attention back to the coast and went to a different section of salt marsh. This time we did a line transect across the whole salt marsh. We looked at the percentage cover of each of the plants growing in our quadrats and took soil samples. The day provided a lot of hilarity as salt marshes are quite a hard terrain to work on. This section had large creeks we had to cross as well as boggy sections where I lost my welly not once but three times! As well as almost every person having to be dragged out of a creek at one point or another.
Our last full day we went out to Blakeney Point where UCL have a research centre. We went out on a boat to see some seals! They are delightful creatures, at blakeney they have two species, the grey seal and the common seal. We then took a long walk along the point looking at the wind farm off the coast as well as the plant species that survive there. Then it was time to pack up and go home however not without a short stop to a Fen habitat. Fen habitats are marsh grasslands that have nutrient poor soil which creates a very diverse area and a great place for birds. Then before I knew it we were back in London.
It was a fantastic trip and I learnt so much in just a few days, I got back on Wednesday and since then I have started my first assignment and caught up on some much needed sleep! Next week looks like a lot of lab work for me so hopefully I’ll be able to tell you some exciting findings from all the field work! Hope you’ve enjoyed this weeks entry!