Becoming a master: So many hedgerows

Week 27

Hello! So the past two weeks have been consumed by all things fieldwork (and a friends wedding). Doing fieldwork is one of my favourite things about being a scientist. It feels like real science even though all of the work that I do is real science. I love getting up close with nature and I learn a lot in a really short space of time. However as I’m writing this now I’ve completed all my fieldwork for this piece of work so I thought I’d tell you my top 5 things I’ve loved about the past 3 weeks of field work and 5 of my least favourite things!

Not So Great Things About Fieldwork

  1. The Elements – I’ve had all weathers whilst doing this work, I’ve been in torrential rain and bright (burning) sunshine. All weathers have there downsides and it can make things a bit tricky when trying to identify a plant you think you’ve never seen before.
  2. Working Alone – Some of my fieldwork I’ve had to do alone and this sucks because I have to carry all my equipment by myself and it takes a lot of self motivation to stay out in the rain when you’re by yourself!
  3. Stinging nettles – They were everywhere and I had so many stings on my hand at one point that it didnt stop tingling for a good day and a half.
  4. Rabbit Holes – Now I’ll never win a competition at being the most graceful but over the past 3 weeks I’ve fallen into more rabbit holes than I can count. Sometimes falling into stinging nettles!
  5. Long days – When I’ve been out and about I tend to stay out! Then when I came home I made a point of putting all my data into my computer  there and then so it couldnt get lost. All this made for a very sleepy laura!

Things that make fieldwork the best thing ever!

  1. The Views!!! – I’ve been working in Cornwall, which just so happens to be one of the most stunning places in the UK (although I am ever so slightly biased). Even in the pouring rain I could look up from my work and see the most stunning views of cornish countryside. I’ve been posting lots of pictures on my instagram if you want to take a look!
  2. Learning – The best way to learn how to identify plants is to get out in nature. I’ve learnt so much over the past three weeks about the names of different plants and their characteristics and it is so rewarding!
  3. Having my field assistants! – Luckily my sister and both of my dogs were able to come out with me on some of my days out and about. My sister is a fabulous assistant and I cannot thank her enough or I would have probably been out in the field for another three weeks getting it done. And my dogs are the cutest things you’ve ever seen and never fail to make me laugh.
  4. Its so much fun! – I love being out and about in nature whether its work or just walking around so I loved these past few weeks!
  5. My glorious data set – I now have the most stunning and massive dataset that I think I’ve ever created by myself and I love it!

Anyway I am now back in London for stage 2 of the project which is statistics. I can’t say I’m all that excited as stats has never been my forte but I’m excited to see what my data really says!

See you all soon and thanks for reading!

ThatBiologist Everywhere!

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Becoming A Master – Here There Be Dragons

Week 4

4 weeks down already! I’ve learnt so much and seen so much it’s unreal and all in just a month! This week again was insanely busy on another field course, this time I was up in Snowdonia national park in Wales. I’ve only been to Wales twice before once for a concert in Cardiff, the other time was on a different field course in Pembrokeshire.

The field course was all about the mosaic of different land uses and the people that manage the land inside the national park. I took a lot of pictures on this trip so rather than scatter them through the text they are all at the bottom. The first full day of the trip was centered around the forests of the park. Originally timber production was quite a big area within the park but as the price and demand for timber has decreased forest tourism has become key. Although we did get to see a harvester at work which was amazing!

Our second day was all about agriculture on the Welsh Uplands, which I can say is not easy. It’s also put a huge demand on the landscape due to the number of sheep overgrazing the land. Being from a farming background I can sympathize with both sides but the overgrazing has got to such a state where certain plant species just cant grow. Particularly species like alpine plants that should be all over the mountains.

The third day we took a hike half way up Snowdon to look at the footpath management there. Half a million tourists each year go up Snowdon and this puts a big demand on the footpaths. So they are well maintained which in turn means that there isnt scars of people making their own way up the mountain. I’ll be honest that hike was hard! I haven’t done something like that in a while but the view was incredible.

The last full day we had we went out with an ecologist who used to be the senior ecologist for the whole of Snowdonia National Park. He showed us an area where the sheep had been fenced out. The growth of heather was astounding compared to the rest of the park.

Then before I knew it I was back in London and my fieldcourses for this term are officially over, now its time to get into my list of coursework to complete! Til next time I hope you enjoy my photos from my trip!

ThatBiologist Everywhere!

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Becoming A Master – Eels, Carp and Crayfish! Oh My!

Week 2

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.

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One of the ponds at the farm.

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

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A Brown Trout

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.

img_20161004_135158.jpgOur 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!

ThatBiologist Everywhere!

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