2016, Biology, Fieldwork, FSC, Juniper Hall, Uncategorized

New Bio Spec – Immersion into Ecology

As discussed in one of Rowena’s recent blogs, South Eastern training took place at Juniper Hall shortly after our much needed Christmas break. One of the topics presented to us was an ‘immersion into ecology’ session at the begining of Biology residential courses. This idea was shared by Head of Centre at Flatford Mill, Jo Harris. It is designed to provide a really exciting and inspirational start to Biology courses and to get students thinking for themselves right from the start! The education team here at JH thought that it was such a brilliant idea that we decided to tweak it to suit our environment and landscape and use it in our courses. Exciting times!

Inspired by Jo Harris’ presentation at training I made it my mission to observe the first one of these sessions in action at JH. Taught by one of our tutors, Michelle, the session was tried on seven year 12 Biologists from St.Orleans school. She opened with the simple question “why are you here?” The reponses were “to conduct field research” and shouted out from the front of the class “BIODIVERSITY!” This was the perfect start to the course as you could tell that this was an incredibly keen group who were ready to immerse themselves into Ecology!

In my last blog I think I highlighted that the last Biology lesson I had was in my years as  a GCSE dual Scientist, so I was already expecting to be out of my depth. Michelle opened up proceedings with a quick quiz on key Ecological terms in which I scored, what I thought was a fairly respectable, 4/7, considering my last Biology lesson is now a distant memory! So I thought it would be a good idea to write this blog from the point of view of myself, as one of the students – at least it will give me an excuse for all the spelling errors!

We were asked to write down in groups what factors influence the abundance and distribution of organisms. We were given 90 seconds to do this and then organise the factors into 2 categories – Biotic and Abiotic. Then as a class, we made links between all of these factors, and I soon learnt that this is what Ecology is, the relationship between basically all biotic and abiotic factors.

The top of Lodge Hill was the location from which we would complete our Field Sketch.

15 minutes later we were outside and enjoying the great February weather…

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Despite the wind and rain, still a brilliant view of The Burford Spur, Denbies Vinyard and a fraction of Dorking- Lodge Hill

This photo doesn’t do the dreadful conditions justice…

The relationship between Biotic and Abiotic factors came into play here as there were endless opportunities to note interactions. For example, the field sketch shows the relationship between biotic and abiotic factors over time, including human intervention. With the growth of Dorking into a town with a population now of over 11,000, changes have been made to the local landscape. Town development obviously has caused transport routes into the town such as railways and main roads have developed. Therefore plant and species diversity has lowered, due to transport links breaking up habitats into patches. This has resulted in the need for humans to manage the woodland for example. Monocultures, with one dominant species in an area and little biodiversity, means that genetic variety has been reduced, therefore making the same species more susceptible to disease.

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Artistically gifted – this is my attempt at a Biology field sketch. I was pretty proud of the annotations too.

The “Classification Scavanger Hunt” followed which encouraged immersion and the use of exciting technologies.We were given 15 minutes to explore Templeton woods, find and take photos of as many of the “5 Kingdoms of life” as we could. To do this we used the app Popplet. Popplet allows you to create a classification diagram, including pictures, links and labels- a really visual and interactive way of learning.

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Fungi are so distinct from animals and plants, they have been allocated their own “kingdom”

A session that sums up what the FSC is all about. I definitely gained a lot of environmental understanding, thanks to the education team for creating this programme and to Michelle for the excellent delivery!

by Rory

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