As promised in my last blog I’m going to write a little bit about the first year BSc field trip today. The trip goes to Dartmoor (in south Devon) during the Monday-Friday of one week in mid-April. We stayed in Exeter university halls, where we were also fed, and then went by coach to a different location each day.
In our year (I’m not sure if it may have changed since…) we did three main things. Firstly, we spent a day at Dawlish Warren. There we considered coastal geomorphology of the spit, as well as conservation management of the natural environment. We were separated into groups and tasked with designing and completing an aspect of field work. After taking the appropriate measurements in our field notebooks, we had group work time in the following evenings to generate conclusions from our results, and write a presentation. The group presentation counted towards our module mark, and all were given on the final morning of the trip, before the coach took us back to Leicester.
At Dawlish we also walked along the sea wall protecting the coastal railway when we were assessing the quality of costal management – so it was pretty interesting for us to hear that the wall had been breached and the railway damaged during the storms this winter.
On the second day of the trip we visited some tors, as well as a disused quarry. But the main part of the day was spent visiting a river valley, where we learned to used an iPhone app called Tripjournal. This uses GPS to track your movements on a map, and allows you to add geotaggged pictures and text (meaning it has a location associated with it) – we used this to observe the different features in the landscape. Following our return to university after the Easter holidays, this was used in a geomorphology assignment, where we described how the river valley had formed.
On the last day of field work we visited Haldon Hills, where we completed a carbon accounting exercise. This involved field surveys to determine the number of trees and average diameter (among other aspects) of a particular forest stand, before incorporating the data into an excel spreadsheet to calculate the biomass and carbon stored.
Aside from these activities, one of the main objectives of the trip (in my opinion of course, I’m not sure this is the official objective) is to teach you how to write a field notebooks, and give you practice at doing that over the week. A field notebook is like a diary that you complete in the field, taking notes on anything interesting/relevant that the lecturers tell you about, as well as the results of any field work you are undertaking. It should be comprehensive, and at the beginning of every new location you write the date, time, and a GPS location, so you always know exactly where and when the notes were taken. This gets pretty easy once you know what to do, and it’s good practice for the Almeria field trip in second year.
We were quite unlucky with our weather to be honest. The lecturers had told us that the previous year had lovely sunny weather where they were able to wear shorts each day. However when we went it was terrible weather, it poured with rain most days, and sometimes the wind was so loud that you couldn’t hear what the lecturers were saying! But we still all enjoyed it, and it’s a really good opportunity to get to know your classmates better, which is what we all found happened during the trip. It’s definitely something to look forward to, and the first of two (or maybe three depending on your third year module choices) field trips at Leicester which are brilliant.