Biologists tackle ecology of Somerset and Devon

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Biologists tackle ecology of Somerset and Devon

Sixth Form residential to Nettlecombe Court, Somerset

Upper Sixth Biologists, accompanied by Mr Boddington, Mrs Johnson and Mrs Metcalf spent three days delving deep into the ecology of Somerset and Devon. Pupils studied three very different habitats, the rocky shore at Helwell Bay, the River Embercombe and the sand dunes at Braunton Burrows as well as exploring the grounds of Nettlecombe Court itself.

The rocky shore study looked at zonation. Pupils learnt about the changes in biodiversity along a transect up the shore from the low water line and related the adaptations of the animals and seaweeds to their location. A few crabs were caught along the way, and they even found a hermit crab living in a dog whelk shell. By the end of the day, pupils were experts at using calipers to measure limpets!

Back at the centre, woodlice were counted in a Mark-Release-Recapture exercise and humane Longworth traps were set to capture small mammals in the woods. Only a couple of these traps were successful but, still, we were delighted to see the two cute wood mice we captured and managed to weigh them to provide data for the FSC.

We were very lucky with the glorious weather on Saturday and made the most of it at the river. Pupils carried out kick sampling and discovered many new species of freshwater invertebrates, all with unique adaptations to the different microhabitats in the water. They carried out a choice chamber experiment on one of the species and applied statistical tests to their findings. Whilst a few pupils ended up with water in their wellies, we were impressed with the waders brought by another!

Sunday was spent on the sand dunes at Braunton. This study of succession was one that pupils had been planning independently for their Required Practical. It was a little rainy and windy at the start but things brightened up for the bulk of the data collection. All the pupils worked hard finalising their plans and measuring the biotic and abiotic factors along their transects.

Both Sarah and Charlie turned 18 on the trip and we all wished them ‘Happy Birthday’ with singing and cake on the two evenings.

“Many thanks go to our two tutors, Mandy and Hannah from the FSC for their expert instruction and wealth of ecological knowledge,” said Head of Biology Julia Metcalf.

“It was very productive (and hopefully enjoyable) three days of Biology.”