Students explore Spain's ecology (UCL)

Uploaded by UCLTV on 17.05.2010

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>> The first half of the field course, we take the students
around various habitats around the place where we're staying.
So they visit the beach, the beach habitat for example,
where they do an experiment
in estimating population sizes of beetles.
>> I think my favourite part
of the planned experiments was the beetles because when we were
out there setting all the pitfall traps,
you'd hardly see any beetles.
And then at the end of the day,
each of the 144 cups we set would have at least
like 10 beetles in it.
And that made you realise how much was actually going
on that you couldn't see
when you were just walking along the beach.
>> Another experiment that we asked them to do is to look
at water striders, which are little bugs
which just basically skate on top of the surface of water.
>> We worked also with wasps, which was a lot less frightening
that it sounded at first.
>> This is another really important part
of the course, is allowing them
to develop their own scientific ideas.
Giving them training on-- about the scientific method,
how to develop a scientific experiment, what things you need
to control for, why are some scientific experiments bad,
why are some good, and what the proper way to do things are.
Another aspect is, once they get the data, we help them
to analyse it properly using the proper statistical tools.
>> Because it's part of the Mediterranean,
the Mediterranean habitat is actually quite diverse
and unique.
And as such, they get
to see quite a different type of ecosystem.
>> Especially in the south of Spain,
there were so many different things growing in the same area.
I never had thought about plants in much detail,
I'd never taken an ecology course before.
And just learning about the complex ways that, like--
the strategies for reproduction
in plants was really interesting.
And I think just the hands-on aspect
of the course was really amazing,
just to make you feel a lot more connected
with what you were learning.
You retain the information a lot better than reading it
from a book or studying it through a lecture.
It makes it a lot more real and concrete.
I learned that I'm a lot less afraid of handling bugs
than I once thought so it's opened some doors for me
in terms of bug-handling careers [laughs].
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