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31 July 2017

Lower Sixth Biology Field Trip to the Scilly Isles

Before the end of term the Lower Sixth biology pupils travelled to St Mary’s in the Scilly Isles for a biology field trip.

The focus of the trip was to conduct a number of field studies to enhance the pupils’ classroom-based learning.

On the first day, after pitching their tents, pupils commenced sampling at a nearby beach, collecting species samples according to those detailed on their identification cards. After a bit of hard graft, some downtime in the sea was needed (wading not swimming as although inviting, it was freezing!) as an escape from the blazing sunshine.

Back to camp, reports were written and a number of ‘pit fall’ traps were set up along the hedgerows around the garrison.

The following day, the pupils split into two groups and headed off to St. Martins to study sand dune succession and for the opportunity to snorkel with seals. The sand dune succession fieldwork allowed pupils to witness all the stages of succession; they looked at ‘sea spurge’ (the pioneer community of the sand dune); progression to marram grass and finally to the ‘climax community’ (a woodland) as the conditions changed. Snorkeling with seals was an incredible experience that let pupils observe the behaviours of these animals in their natural environment.

After a boat ride back to St Mary’s, the groups headed back up to their campsite where the pitfall traps were checked. Any found organisms were collected and marked and then set free. The traps went back in situ for another night so a final population size check could be conducted the following morning. The busy and purposeful day was rounded off with a lovely supper back in town, and an evening of outdoor games back at the campsite.

On day three, the pupils set off early to Old Town Bay to complete systematic sampling and profiling of the beach. Early morning keenness meant the group arrived at high tide, so a quick dip was in order (the sea less cold than the previous days!) Once the tide was low enough, pupils prepared their equipment ready to undertake further sampling; belt and line transects introduced them to the ACFOR scale and pupils became more familiar with identifying species with ID sheets and identification books. They also profiled the beach, gathering data and creating graphs to portray the incline and declines of the beach.

Mr Cole’s missing Mars Bar will remain a mystery forever. Let’s just say he was unimpressed at finding an empty wrapper where his well-earned treat should have been!

After finishing the day on the beach there was a chance to do some sampling of the rock pools. Nets in hand, the pupils rushed off in search of crabs, and other rock pool dwellers.

The long walk back to camp revealed some more organisms in the pitfall traps, with some pupils finding they had managed to capture the same ‘marked’ creatures from the previous nights, but there was enough data to calculate the population size.

After supper there was a surprise quiz from the teachers. The questions were about the Scilly Isles, biology and a section that required the pupils to gather information from around Hugh Town. The weather was on the change and the last night was appalling but it didn’t stop some pupils from playing football in the pouring rain.

The final day was unfortunately a stormy one. Whilst waiting for their equipment to be picked up pupils were able to do some calculations of species diversity using the Simpsons Index of a wall. Once finished, they had a little free time before everyone boarded the ferry for what was a rather choppy three-hour journey.

On behalf of everyone on the trip, pupils would like to thank Mrs. Pardoe, Mr. Florey and Mr. Cole for a memorable and enjoyable trip that was thoroughly enjoyed by all.

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