Remember the ‘olden days’ when we could go to the farm and work in groups with students? Here’s a dim distant record of a memory from February 2020!
This is our “Sustainable Livestock Production Systems” module where I teach grassland. We had a day at Nafferton Farm where the students spent half an hour each at a different ‘station’ learning about sustainable beef and dairy, pigs and feed, stewardship on the farm (I actually no longer remember if it is called ‘countryside’ or ‘environmental’ at the moment without looking it up – ELMS is ok!) and vegetative pasture grassland identification. This last bit was my bit of course and you can see the students fascinated (definitely) by ligules, stolons and patterns, shapes of leaf blades … Students made sustainability recommendations to James, the farm manger.
Freya Lance is the star performer here – it is so encouraging to hear our students recognising that they have to be responsible stewards of the land caring about the sustainability of the processes.
Credit to Hannah Davis for organising the day and to the marketing team for joining us, happily just made it before lockdown.
As we emerge from lockdown the farms should be a valuble resource and outdoor space where we can hopefully work on research projects – but nothing is guaranteed, of course
Was lovely to catch up with the MEnvs (Masters in Environmental Science) this week. I confess to finding some things about lockdown pleasant – and I don’t mean that as disrespect to those who are struggling, because I completely understand some people are – but I have enjoyed the peace and the family time. Also, not getting up as early as I used to is on my list of flippant positives. But – I was very sad not to meet up with the MEnvs for their talks, not to catch up with them properly or go for a celebratory drink afterwards or have lunch with the External Examiner… which leads me to remember Richard Payne who shared our presentations last year and his excited anticipation for his imminent Nanda Devi expedition https://www.york.ac.uk/environment/our-staff/richard-payne/ . You are missed, Richard. Our thoughts are still with his family. Back to our students, miss you too, but pleased to see you virtually at least. You all handled zoom with professionalism with talks on carbon budgeting on building sites and in business, water pollution in urban nature reserves, low tech environmental monitoring and grazing on bogs. See you at graduation everyone! I wonder if you will wear gowns …
The plan was to receive training and guidance on how to use your phone to produce a short video suitable for YouTube or Vimeo or wherever. To improve communication skills and employability. But the training happened – or didn’t happen – on the very first day of lockdown. Nevertheless, our versatile, enterprising students, armed with the PowerPoint and their inititives got their heads down to produce to a theme of their choice – aimed at audience of choice. Darren, Alastair and Theo, with different restrictions and access to outdoors, gave me permission to publish. Hope you like them.
First year field trips to learn about terrestrial habitat, soil, land use, and river surveys all cancelled because of Lockdown. One of the replacement options was for students to become familiar with recording Wildlife during Lockdown. So using an app iNaturalist (to join in with City Nature Challenge) or iSpot if not so confident, or iRecord if feeling bold. Students had to aim for a minimum of 10 (recognising some may not have gardens or good outside space) new records and reflect on the process. Really hoping it will build their confidence to identify wildlife and love of wildlife and some of them might just get hooked. I’ll update when I come to mark.
I’m staying with my mum as she is elderly. Her lawn (pictured) has least yelllow sorrel, lesser trefoil, common stork’s-bill, self heal, common dog violet, cowslip, lesser celandine, ribwort plantain, mouse-ear hawkweed … just wondeful. I’m so proud that she hasn’t called in the heavies to spray weedkiller and fertiliser all over it. Just shows how species rich our lawns could be if we stopped trying.
If you are someone who has been to one of our open days and has picked up the link to my blog and are reading now, you probably heard me talk about learning for the love of learning, and how sad it makes me that our school system is geared toward passing exams. Maybe there are opportunities as a result of C-19 while you are learning at home:
Alevels are great ways to stress you out, to help you learn mark schemes, and to dampen your creativity and risk taking (IMO).
Don’t stop learning – learn to learn, and learn to love learning
When you get to Uni, you will have to be more independent, it is not too early to start that now.
If you find something interesting, follow your interest, find out more about it
Question everything: even if someone you trust tells you something, do not assume it is true, find other opinions, look for evidence. There has been lots of nonsense shared about C-19 e.g. something about sips of water preventing the disease, then there has been info with no real full evidence but some indication e.g. about ibuprofen … Don’t trust any source – find info from lots of sources and weigh it up. See things from lots of points of view
Learn to be disciplined, set yourself targets and give yourself rewards for completing (maybe you are good at that)
Read around Environmental Science issues. Read government papers. Check out websites of organisations e.g. IUCN, WWF, Environment Agency. Find out what they do. Does not have to be on your syllabus.
At Uni you will get much more freedom to choose topics, to present work in different ways, to decide for yourself. There are mark schemes to give you guidance, but you cannot learn them. There is often more than one right answer (tho there are wrong answers)
Maybe you can learn with your family – not just on your own. Do projects together. have debates?
Some things we have no control over e.g. whether we go to school and take exams. Things we do have control over are how you are going to use your time. Use it to enjoy your learning.
I know this is not possible for everyone, you all have different situations, but I hope it inspires some of you.
Had such an amazing “just for fun” day with the MSc students – not just BCEM but also Sam from Ecological Consultancy and Alex from Food Security – we love to welcome anyone who wants to come. Thanks everyone for coming.
It was one of those days where everything seems ridiculously beautiful: the rain stopped, the sun came out the colours and atmosphere on the beach were stunnig. In the waterside bird hides, the golden eye were close in against the shore so we could properly see their golden eyes, and the little grebe was dabbling in the near distance too – with the godwit, curlew, turnstone, redshank etc on the middle island. In the other bird hide there was every garden bird for the beginner (which some of us were) and the fattest ever pigeon. And the lichens at Druridge bay were dripping.
(Biodiversity) Conservation and Ecosystem Management – for which I am DPD – the ‘Biodiversity’ part of the name is going, but not because we don’t teach it, rather to simplify the title:
This is probably the most practical of the courses, developing ecological knowldege alongside field skills (Phase 1 & 2 survey, species identification) and desk skills (e.g. GIS, use of R), making contacts and underpinned by rigorous yet pragmatic research skills.
Statistics are taught assuming less confidence than the other programs, using an R interface for ease, but incorporating use of R code for those with more confidence or who wish to progress to a PhD.
Links with local ecological and conservation employers are strong with frequest talks and visits. We encourage dissertations which respond to topical questions asked by these employers.
My blog gives you a good idea of some of the things we do. Dr Janet Simkin and I love all areas of wildlife and conservation, but we both particularly enjoy botany.
Ecology and Biodiversity. I can say less about these programs as they are outside my research group, but:
Ecology and biodiversity is very rigorous in terms of research relating to the subject. Statistics, data and modelling are strong along with GIS and remote sensing. Wildlife conflicts and humans in ecosytems are big themes. Please also check the website for the modules. If you know you want to do a PhD then this or Wildlife Management will give you an excellent start.
Wildlife Management is also rigorous in terms of research relating to the subject and statistics and modelling, GIS and remote sensing but it incorporates more aspects of wildlife (particularly species). It has more of a global wildlife and policy content than any of the other programmes. Please also check the website for the modules.
This gives you all the skills you need to be an ecological consultant. GIS, Phase1 and Phase2 survey, EIA. The dissertation is in the form of a consultancy project with a client.
Had fun meeting the potential students and their parents today at Open Day. My ‘lab’ is usually on the moor, but stepped out of my comfort zone, with help from colleagues from Earth Science – especially Dave Early teaching technician – and student ambassadors, who were rewarded with trays of leftover food to take home.
Prospective students brought tapwater from their homes with them to test it for nitrates and compare with the 50ppm threshold. Most were pretty low – the highest nitrate levels were found in Ascot and the lowest in Edinburgh. What can this mean?