Biology Residential to Nettlecombe Court

23 September 2021

On Friday 17th, our Year 13 biologists headed off to the beautiful Nettlecombe Court FSC as they spent the weekend developing their ecological sampling skills and carrying out some really intriguing practicals.

As the students arrived in the stunning and serene valley of Exmoor National Park, they quickly got stuck on with the weekend’s agenda. Some highlights of the trip include carrying out ecological sampling of the grassland habitats in the vast grounds of Nettlecombe using belt transects, frame quadrats and point quadrats, and identifying grassland species such as white clover, yarrow, thistle, ribwort plantain, and many species of grass. They also got to sample some freshwater invertebrate at the meanders, using kick sampling methods to capture and observe invertebrates such as freshwater shrimps, caddisfly larvae, stonefly larvae, mayfly, and pond skaters. At various points throughout the day, they were even accompanied (at a distance) by sheep and cows!

“One of my personal highlights was our day by the water where we got to go in the river and sample organisms with some of us even catching fish! I also loved when we visited Nettlecombe woods and listened to our tutor Mandy read out a poem while we listened with our eyes closed embracing nature.” – Eloise

“Observing and identifying the wide variety of invertebrates we caught in the stream was definitely one of  the highlights of the trip. Our favourite was the cased caddisfly larvae which creates its own shell from sand and debris on the riverbed!” – Ammarah and Tasha

On Sunday, the students had the opportunity to plan and complete independent research projects in which they got to investigate a particular aspect of grassland ecology. Each student or pair collected and analysed data using appropriate statistical tests and they all gave excellent presentations of their findings!

“The trip was a good opportunity to expand our knowledge of biodiversity in an enjoyable and practical way! We carried out our independent research projects on the abundance of white clover as distance from a chestnut tree increased. A particularly enjoyable day was when we sampled in a stream and identified different species.” – Shreya and Gabby

There were more exciting events in store on Sunday as the students prepared and set humane small mammal traps with a view to capturing and recording the mass of wood mice. On Monday morning, they checked the traps and were able to observe several wood mice before releasing them safely into the woodland. The students also got to see bats using bat detectors on Sunday evening!

“It was so nice to finally have a residential where we can all bond as a class. I learnt so much about identifying common plants and ways to use them. My favourite part was humanely catching wood mice and learning about their characteristics. We got to wade through a local river and stay in a historic house that had some parts dating to 1072!” – Rida

“Overall, I had a really good time. It was my first field trip with OHS and I had a great experience. I learned a lot about different statistical tests and now I feel more confident describing them in exams. My favourite part of the field trip was catching the wood mice, feeding them and releasing them back into the wild.” – Milla

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