Biology Field Trip 2015 – The Outdoor Classroom

Upper Sixth biologists, accompanied by Dr Kenny, Dr Madden and Miss McGregor made their annual trip along the A55 to visit The Drapers’ Field Centre at Betws y coed for the residential Biology field trip.

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The course has been developed to specifically support what is done in the classroom and linked to the examination board specification. It provides the opportunity to undertake fieldwork, experiencing first-hand scientific methods of investigating, recording, analysing, evaluating and presenting data from different ecosystems.

The girls were able to experience the varied landscapes of North Wales at its absolute best in the September sunshine.

Shortly after arrival, small mammal traps were set in the centre grounds to estimate the population size of voles and mice using the ‘mark, release, recapture’ technique.

The following morning in the ancient woodland at Coed Hafod, girls undertook three short investigations to explore sampling techniques and ecological theory. The projects covered the zonation of bryophytes on oak trees, a comparison of lichen distribution on oak and birch trees and finally a study of the population dynamics of the Holly Leaf Miner identifying mortality factors and calculating population survival rates.


At Harlech sand dunes the girls investigated primary succession of the plant communities from pioneer to climax by collecting biotic data along a belt transect using point quadrats, to assess the distribution of plant communities in relation to soil and other environmental gradients. In the evening there were group presentations of data, each presentation including a song, poem or cartoon sequence.

The girls had the opportunity to visit a rocky beach on Anglesey at Penmon to focus on the zonation of plants and animals down the shore. Here we were lucky enough to see seals and harbour porpoises as we worked in the sunshine. There was even time for an ice cream before leaving to travel back to the centre via an upland Nature Reserve at Cwm Idwal. Here we walked up to the lake to look at the evidence of management practices and their effects on succession in exclusion plots across the area. A case study of the Tufted Saxifrage, a rare arctic alpine led to some entertaining short improvised drama productions.

On our final day girls sampled invertebrate populations in the river Conwy using a kick sampling technique. The samples were then taken back to the Centre to be identified using microscopes and dichotomous keys. The Chi2 test was then applied to analyse associations between species.

It was a very productive few days and girls and staff alike appreciated the stunning scenery in the sunshine!

Dr Sue Madden
Head of Biology