Friday 6 August 2010

Organising Fieldwork

I have 10 days before I return to work full-time after the holiday, and I am starting to look forward to the first term and what I can plan for the students. I'm also getting all these out-of-office e-mails from contacts, saying they're off in the middle of nowhere playing with fossils, so I'm feeling envious. In any case, fieldwork is on my mind.

As it stands, I have the A2 biology students, one of the AS biology groups, the second-year applied science class, the first-year forensic science class and the first diploma applied science group. The A2s and second-years are going to get fieldwork...

This year we had a very successful three days at Perivale Wood. Being an ancient oak woodland with some conservation and clearing, there are a lot of opportunities for original fieldwork.

If you're Russell Crowe, you should note that the above is what an oak woodland looks like, as you never had the opportunity to act in one. </snark>

We did the fieldwork in late February of this year. It was a good time in that there were lots of bluebells coming up, so density surveys could be carried out of those species. However, it was difficult for the students to identify the different deciduous trees, and any animals were still in hibernation. Waiting until later in the year is not really an option, as the examining board requires that all coursework is submitted by May, so for the A2 students, it looks like we're going this term.

So we can do some animal diversity surveys of the various ponds (and the student who complains the most about being outside will be given the waders and dispatched to the centre of the pond). I think some enterprising students with GPS on their phones can probably do things like measuring circumference of the trees (as a proxy for age) in relation to distance from the railway embankment or the canal, or similar. And we can do the usual number of plants/number of species against light intensity/pH/moisture levels.

The applied science students, however, will get to go in April or May, as their coursework isn't due in until June. They'll be studying plant and soil sciences, so they at least will be relieved that they don't have to go in the pond.

They will, however, have to deal with what this year's A2s considered the most horrific aspect of fieldwork:

Any tips on how to get teenagers comfortable with the idea of going for a pee outside? It would appear that my "Shut up and get on with it" attitude is not overly well received.


  1. I grew up going on trips w/ family where there were long periods of time between "rest stops" - so maybe developed early the ability to get on with it. Other than that - one area (general direction) for the girls, one for the boys, so they can't spend anytime trying to spy each other and so they might feel more comfortable? OR, they can't go until about to pop!

  2. Like you, I'm rather accustomed to the idea of just going where I can. Apart from a rather surreal situation on Cape Cod where the public toilets were shut for the season and we did have to peel off into single-sex groups, I've managed to sneak off behind a tree.

    I thought it would be a blessing for them to have a chemical toilet to use, with doors they can close and lock, but this seemed to be a worse option than going al fresco.

    They should be glad they're not on geology fieldwork, where usually the only outcrop to go behind is the one everyone's studying!

  3. Having seen most high streets on a Saturday morning, a few alcopops aught to do it. ;-)

    On a more serious note I've never noticed the maile of the species having a problem.

    You could always make it a competition.

  4. Most of the young men seemed to enjoy the fact that the reserve warden positively encouraged them to pee outside as it was good for the plants (the old nitrogen cycle at work there!).


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