Science students often get to do experiments and but it is not often that they get the chance to take their samples directly from the field and not with the amazing backdrop of Dartmoor National Park behind them.
Students from the IGCSE had an amazing chance to carry out biology studies at the Heatree outdoor research center on Dartmoor. Heatree is an outdoor center situated near Hay Tor one of the highest points on the moors and the center caters for a range of outdoor activities and science research that allows students to study the flora and fauna of Dartmoor in its natural environment.
We had a busy day ahead of us and had a slow climb in the bus from Torquay to the top of the moors through old villages seemingly untouched by time and often having to dodge sheep and horses or walk totally freely on the moors.
Once we arrived at the center we had a briefing about the days activities before collecting our packed lunch and getting kited up with water proofs and ‘wellies’ or boots.
We headed out of the center and took part in an activity designed to get us thinking about how all of the animals and plants on the moors are connected with the sun and the rain.
Then we got really stuck in when we got into groups and were given our equipment. We got into the small river that runs through the center and collected samples of the water. Many of didn’t really expected to find much in our water sample but to our surprise we found a huge array of small life forms from river shrimp to and tiny worm that lives in the river. We also found amazing small animals that make their home in tiny pieces of wood as a disguise.
We had to record our samples and then set about studying them to identify their size and their predominance and we were able to check if the numbers we found for anyone species was a common number or whether we had identified a larger population that could threaten the delicate ecosystem off the river.
Once we had recorded our findings we headed further onto the moors and after a lunch stop we began to study some of the fascinating flora samples that you can find on the moors.
Dartmoor is largely made up of marsh and moorland and is almost always wet. This means that when coupled with its height it has a unique collection of flowers and plants, some found nowhere else.
This was a unique experience that really allowed us to think about science and natural biology in a whole new way and has added greatly to our understanding of the topics we study in school.