Undergraduate Conservation Field Trip Report

The stage one BSc Wildlife Conservation undergraduates had first-hand experience of monitoring and surveying biodiversity, which took place from 10th – 17th April. Report by Treya Picking

The purpose of DI303 (Survey and Monitoring for Biodiversity)

The aim of this module is to provide us with practical field experience in wildlife conservation monitoring and assessment methods. Over the week, four residential field trips and one non-residential, we assessed the biodiversity of a taxonomic group and explored aspects of spatial technology. By the end of the week we had developed skills in surveying, monitoring and analyzing data. We were also required to present on a topic from the field work data on the final day.

The activities

We were split into six group (A-F) to complete the following activities:
This practical was located on campus in a fenced area called ‘the field site’, which had eight small ponds. These ponds have been colonized by three native newt species, which have been continuously monitored and studied. In the evening survey we set eight traps at standardised points in each pond. The next morning we removed the traps and the captured population were identified and recorded. All newts were released back into the ponds except the Great Crested, which were kept for further analysis. Did you know that Great Crested newts have unique belly patterns? Each newt was weighed and placed into an analysis box in order to be measured and identified from a photographic book of belly patterns. A photo of the belly was taken for further records.

This survey was located in Kings Wood, Chilham. Its purpose was to assess refuge use by the reptiles in various key areas where artificial covers had been stationed. A direct transect line method was used and the reptiles found under the covers and within the site were identified and recorded.

This survey was located in the Brotherhood Wood on campus. Tree densities of the two most dominant tree species within a perimeter were assessed using six quadrant sizes and the nearest neighbour method.

The aim of this practical was to introduce us to spatial technologies for wildlife tracking and to examine errors in GPS technology and radio-tracking equipment. Two groups had to hide radio-transmitters within a specific area while tracking their journey. Then each group had to find the other groups’ radio-transmitter using radio-tracking equipment, whilst applying the triangulation method. The first ones to find it won Easter eggs (of course my group won yay!)

May-di303-birdsThe purpose of this survey was to carry out a common bird census in three different habitats. Along the three transects we were equipped with binoculars and bird books to assist us in identifying the birds spotted along the way.

What did I particularly enjoy?

I had a great time on all the activities but if I had to pick a favourite it would be the reptile survey. To start off with it was very hands on as we all got a chance to handle the Slow Worms that Professor Griffins caught. We also got to witness Simon Mitchell dive to catch a Common Lizard and another team leader wrestle an adder with only one glove. So that was definitely a highlight!

What did I learn?

This module gave me a real insight into the basic techniques of surveying biodiversity. There is no doubt that these effective ecological census techniques will be useful in my future conservation career. I realised that statistics and the adjective ‘straight forward’ do not go together well. I found that it was one of the most challenging aspects of the field work, which I’ll be well prepared for next time around. During the week my knowledge on British wildlife expanded and it has encouraged me to do some independent research on native wildlife and get more involved locally. I learnt that surveying biodiversity requires time and effort and in order to become a successful conservationist in the future I will need to work on my patience and observing skills.
Lastly, I just want to say that I had an amazing week taking part in this module and the practicality of the various activities made learning more engaging and took it to a whole new level of fun. I also want to thank the teaching team for their guidance and their significant contribution towards the module’s success.

Photos courtesy of Simon Mitchell and Kate McNutt


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