Sunday, 22 January 2017

BSc Year 1 Progress

Hello. Haven't posted  in a while.

Degree's going well, but (as expected) the workload is increasing swiftly. I've done an evolutionary essay and hedgerow survey report as my formative work, and an essay on boreal forest organisations remits, and a substantial academic portfolio so far for my summative. We've had a few proper lab sessions doing chromatography, pigment/water spectrophotometry and soil analysis. Soon I'll be on a work placement at Lindsay Carrington Ecological Services which is great since I've gotten pretty tired of making fences and doing odd jobs under a ranger. I'll be there for about 4 weeks so it's quite a big undertaking. Apparently I'll be helping with some phase 1 and bat reports. As part of the 'Academic Skills' unit, I've to work on an independent project, which I've chosen to do on wood ants and the vital habitat requirements to sustain their populations in the Caledonian Pinewood ecosystem. It's only secondary research, but I like the fact that I'm allowed to choose my own topic. I'm also becoming increasingly interested in entomology. I did a journal club presentation about late and early Quercus robur phenoforms and the use of late leaf flushing as defence against the winter month Operophtera brumata. So, yes, when I (hopefully) get to year 3, my dissertation will most likely be on  a plant-insect relationship.


Friday, 30 September 2016

Started BSc at Sparsholt

Hello again.

So, another three years at Sparsholt. I'll have done half a decade's worth of study in ecology and countryside management by the time I (hopefully) graduate. And I'll be 26-27. It's going well so far, although it's only been two weeks. Having done 2 years ecology prior to the course it's a little basic, but I fully expect it to get more challenging. I've finished the first draft of a formative induction hedge survey report and have just started the second formative assessment, an essay on Darwin's finches.

We'll see how it goes...


Sunday, 31 July 2016

Reading & Insects

Hello, all. I'm on my break before the degree starts in September (hopefully - still waiting for student loan to be processed). I've started a new wave of reading. I recently finished Unweaving the Rainbow by Prof. Dawkins, then Letters to a Young Scientist by Prof. Wilson. Yesterday I picked up The Social Conquest of Earth by Wilson having enjoyed the latter book and his writing style. All within the space of about two weeks.

Another recent development is I've been thinking about focusing in on another biological/ecological domain, that of the insects. In terms of animals for me it was always the characteristic megafauna, mammals such as Siberian tigers and Eurasian wolves, but as I've studied ecology over the past 2 years (and for the many years on my own before starting college) I've gradually become a more and more fascinated in the little guys, the ones that do all the work. I'm the sort of person that likes to focus on a particular thing. Botany was, and still is, that thing. Although, of course, I find all of biological diversity intrinsically interesting (who wouldn't?). I find that I just gravitate towards certain things.

I was never really intensely interested in insects, although I appreciated their role in ecology. In these last few days, probably after I read E O Wilson and caught his infectious enthusiasm for ants, something just clicked in my mind that I really should spend time understanding insect ecology, their life histories and evolutionary chronologies. I just like the idea of gravitating to one or two things and focusing on them (as well as absorbing other information) so that I can understand them in more detail as opposed to just broad swathes all the time. It's like nailing one's colours to the mast, I suppose. It makes sense, the flowering plants co-evolved with insects about 65 million years ago during the late Cretaceous. Plants and insects literally go together. I could extend this to all terrestrial arthropods, but I'm not so keen on arachnids for some reason, although that doesn't mean they aren't equally as interesting. Myriapods are interesting though.

I feel like insects are a new and exciting realm for me. I know what they do in terms of broad ecological processes and principles, but I've never really sat down and said, "right, I'm going to focus on the insecta and just learn more about them for curiosity's sake", that sort of thing. We'll see how it goes.


Friday, 17 June 2016

Scotland College Study Trip

Back hame once more, again in June, but for only 1 week instead of 3. Here's a summary. Apologies in advance for no animal photos as most of the sightings were glimpses and I have a phone camera.

Sunday we went to the Highland Wildlife Park and had a guided tour around the place and discussed the arguments for and against species reintroductions into Scotland. This was good as I'd been to the park before, but felt more informed going away. Unfortunately I "lost" my phone, so I didn't take any photos but I loved watching the Amur Tigers, as always, and of course the wolves although there was only wolf wandering its enclosure this time. It was just good to go round with college mates and go back to familiar places. Then we went to the lovely Loch Insh where we sat and watched Ospreys flying overhead for a good hour or so, as well as walking around the loch to find many orchids and other wonderful plants (a highlight for me). Then we went on a late afternoon stroll up Craigellachie behind the hostel at which we were staying. That was probably the fullest day of the lot as the weather started turning...
Loch Insh 
Early Purple Orchid at Loch Insh

Heath Spotted Orchid at Loch Insh

On the way up the Craigellachie trail 
Cairn on Craigellachie

Lochan next to the cairn

Lecturer looking at montane flora
Monday we went up to Cairngorm and had a talk from one of the rangers at the base about the geology and conditions on the mountain, as well as the recreations side of things. I think the first time I went to Cairngorm I'd seen it in passing but I enjoyed walking through the montane garden they have with notes on the ecology of mountain and moorland plants. I'd never walked around Cairngrom so luckily we went on a walk up one of the paths and got a good ways up before having to come down (due to mixed fitness levels and low visibility). Amazingly the small group who decided to carry on up higher, myself included, glimpsed a ptarmigan. Others had seen red grouse during the course of the hike, but I never did manage to spot one. The hike took the energy out of a lot of people, so that was the end of Monday.
Interp 1
Interp 2

Catching sight of a Ptarmigan at the end of the Cairngorm hike

Think I enjoyed Tuesday the most as it was my beloeved Abernethy and their was a talk by Ian Perks, head warden, a nice guy and very knowledgeable. Had a lovely long walk through the old woods and saw none other than a capercaille in flight! So in regards to birds I've seen Dotterel on Creag Meagaidh, Osprey at Loch Insh (and a few other places), Ptarmigan on Cairngorm and Capercaille at Abernethy.

Walking with lecturers and Ian Perk, Warden for Abernethy

Lovely woods as always

Discussing management of the woods and surrounding landscape

Loch Garten. Need I say more?
Wednesday was a bit of a shame as it poured it down and we had to carry out a contingency plan. The day was mostly about  interpretation so we went to Glenmore Forest Park and saw some of the signage there, most of which I'd already seen. Then we did a lovely walk in the pouring rain with almost no visibility from Allt Mor, I believe, all the way up to Cairngorm again. Then we dried off, took the funicular up to the Cairngorm Plateau and had a look at the excellent interpretation there too.

Glenmore interp

Powerful overflowing river on the trail makes for an interesting contrast to lazy chalk streams of England

Nice bit of interp at Cairngorm Plateau base

Thursday we saw dolphins. Lots of them. It was planned for Wesdnesday but the weather was too bad. We were glad we changed the date as it worked out well. Went out with Ecoventure in RIBs on the Moray Firth and saw tons of dolphins. Unfortunaley I missed the seabird colonies due to raging sea sickness, but that cleared quickly. Thankfully the dolphin spotting was good enough to make me forget about it.

 Spot where we first watched some dolphins breach the waters and also some sea birds before going on the boats. 
Going out on to the Moray Firth in a RIB

Thanks for reading.

Friday, 20 May 2016

Update for May

And then I remembered I had a blog...

Conservation diploma is almost over with just a few more assignments left. Going back up to Scotland in June (interesting how I also went back June of last year) but this time it'll be for a week as part of an upland ecology field trip. Very much looking forward to that and I'll be uploading photos here. The itinerary looks great. I'll also be the only Scotsman in the group. So special.

I've just been tidying a few things up, getting the last bits of work done, going out to a few woods and learning a lot. In the past few days ecological/evolutionary simulations have taken my interest and I found out about the old SimLife game. Never knew anything like that existed. Plant evolution is definitely a budding interesting of mine, it seems. Oh, no... "Budding". Sorry.

Looking forward to the summer. I think I've done about 60 assignments over 2 years. If all goes according to plan I should start the BSc in September.


Sunday, 14 February 2016

Quick Update: February 2016

Still chugging away at year 2 of the old conservation diploma. Finished my 2nd work placement at Avon Heath. Coming to the end of the course as I believe there's only maybe 12 teaching weeks left, possibly fewer. Nothing remarkable in terms of college at the minute, but finished the freshwater and coastal units. Still on the chainsaw, greenwood crafts, deer ecology and management, and a few others. I was going to take the environmental interpretation unit however I decided just to switch it out for livestock management. Looking forward to the ecological concepts and applications unit which should be starting soon. What else? Nope. Mostly just coursework. Oh, after having dropped the Ecology of Plants book I've picked it up again and slowly mlaking my way through a sea of formulas and BSc/MSc wordage.

Well, spent a lot of time in the New Forest the past few weeks and generally watching a lot of good documentaries, mostly Attenborough. Went to revisit Langley Wood NNR today, without thinking how early it is for wildflowers yet. Give me AWIs! One good thing is that it reminded me that for some reason I never got my own Francis Rose so I just bought one today. Probably a good idea to finally buy the industry standard on pant I.D, eh?

Friday, 11 December 2015

Year 2 So Far

Hello all. I haven't posted in a while as I've been busy working away at year 2 coursework. Units I'm currently taking are the management of fresh water, coastal and farm habitats. Also doing units on deer management, livestock, chainsaw (CS30) and greenwood crafts. After Christmas I believe we'll be starting the ecological applications unit I'm looking forward to, as well as environmental interpretation and urban habitat ecology. 

Some highlights: haven't done much practical work but we have spent a lot more time outdoors already for the various units, such as undertaking a River Habitat Survey at Stockbridge Marsh. Went to a talk as part of the course from the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust on their Waders for Real project. The chainsaw unit is going pretty good and I've surprised myself if I'm being honest, since I never thought I could wield one without chopping off an extremity. Got to wrestle some Wiltshire horn recently as part of the livestock unit. Also slowly getting back into woodcraft since it's part of the course, which is good as I pretty much put that on halt. So far the year has gone alright and grades are consistent with last year. Hoping to aim for  D* at the end of everything. 

At the start of January I'll be doing my second work placement, this time a bit closer to home at Avon Heath Country Park. 

I've applied for ecology at Bournemouth uni, but the likelihood is I'll be doing the degree at Sparsholt which is fine by me. There's just a lot of pros and cons to weigh up.