Year 13 Biology field trip to Blencathra

Article written by Miss Incerti 

Year 13 biologists recently spent two enjoyable days at the Blencathra Field Studies Centre, in the Lake District, working on the Ecology topics for their A Level.

This is normally a residential visit, taken in June, but due to lockdown, the trip had to be rearranged as 2 day visits.

The weather was much better than expected for November and we stayed dry and warm for the most part, whilst maintaining social distancing and hygiene measures for the duration of the visit.

The students learnt about sampling techniques for measuring abundance and distribution of living organisms and methods of measuring abiotic factors, such as soil temperature and oxygen content of water.

Our first activity was an investigation into the abundance of bracken on Blease Fell, linking this to altitude above sea level and the frost line, which has an impact on where bracken can grow and survive.

The Mark-Release-Recapture method with the Lincoln Index, used for estimating the population size of a motile species, was used to estimate the population of ramshorn snails in the Centre’s pond.

After a picnic lunch in the sunshine, we drove to a nearby farm which has St. John’s beck running through it to investigate freshwater Ecology.  We studied the differences in abiotic factors between ponds and riffles in the river and how they influence the distribution and abundance of freshwater invertebrates.

Mayfly nymphs, caddisfly larvae and freshwater shrimps were particularly abundant, showing that the water had a high oxygen content and was therefore relatively unpolluted.

On day 2, we investigated primary succession on a lithosere in the Caldew Valley.  The scree slope has rock falls of different ages so it is possible to look at how plants colonise and change the environment for other plants to grow in.

It was a very worthwhile trip; the students enjoyed themselves, they worked hard, learnt and practised new skills and improved their knowledge and understanding of Ecology.

We will now be able to statistically analyse all the data we collected to determine the significance of any differences in distribution of organisms or correlations between abiotic and biotic variables.

The students and staff were grateful for the opportunity to take part in a school trip, the first since lockdown in March, and to spend time outside in the beautiful surroundings of the Lake District.

We look forward to taking Year 12 Biologists next June.