Haven’t really been blogging here for quite a while. After the two field trips before the last university term, I’ve just been preoccupied with revision and exams, and now I’m on my next field trip at Juniper Hall, Surrey (England), for the Ecology course in year 2. The first two field trips were to Orielton, Wales for Evolution & Behaviour, and to Arran, Scotland for Earth Sciences.
It’s been pretty interesting, cos the professors running the field trip are quite into biodiversity, conservation and climate change – everything that I’m quite interested in – so we’ve had a couple of talks and chats about all that.
The most “prized” habitat here at Juniper Hall (or Box Hill) is the chalk grassland. It’s the most biodiverse habitat in the UK, and is one of the priority hotspots, and hence generates a lot of conservation interest. What I found really intriguing though, was the fact that chalk grasslands are entirely man-made and hence have to be heavily managed to be maintained. Conservation volunteers here spend a lot of their time digging up rhododendrons or other invasive species, ensuring that tree seedlings don’t encroach onto grasslands by pruning or grazing/mowing etc.
It’s so different from back home, or perhaps in the tropics in general, where conservation means fighting to preserve habitat from development/destruction. Where you’ve got primary and/or secondary forests that’s being deforested either because of development or agricultural/plantation/timber purposes, destroying vital habitat for endangered native species.
I guess I just find it intriguing cos in the UK, it’s more like man vs nature, trying to prune back the wilderness that would encroach, whereas in the tropics, it’s man vs man, trying to save some of the wilderness from vanishing.
Anyway, the field trip has been pretty awesome, cos I’m getting to learn a lot of British flora and invertebrates. It’s been trees and grassland species and various invertebrates (moths, spiders, beetles etc) for the past few days, and we’ve also just started on our projects (that’s gonna be counted in our grades for next year!! ><) I thought about doing a project on a specific group, perhaps on spider predation, ladybird mating preferences, froghopper spit function, bee pollination preferences etc. But these kinds of projects don’t seem to appeal to me quite as much as doing a project on the change in community structure when a habitat’s been preserved, for example, or effects of disturbances on vegetation structure. I guess I really am more interested in bigger picture, conservation-related projects. So I’m now attempting to do a study of edge effect on the mixed deciduous forest here. Which is really tricky cos the forests here are horribly fragmented.
[currently end of field trip; this post was drafted at the beginning of the field trip]
End of field trip, I’m rushing to pack my bags and catch my flight for the rest of my Summer plans: Mt Kilimanjaro and safari in Tanzania, then Operation Wallacea in South Africa. Before going back home end August! (:
My British flora knowledge has shot up by some 1000%, and it’s been really interesting talking to the profs and hearing them speak about their passions. I also managed to obtain the dubious achievement of getting 12 ticks in 11 days of field trip (personal best was 6 ticks in a day). Really looking forward to Ecology next year (without the ticks)! Also, very much looking forward to going back home and getting some rest and time to blog properly.