Amy at a rockpool

Rock pool survey discoveries

Amy is in her third year studying Ecology and Conservation at Brighton. Earlier this year she was one of a small group of students lucky enough to be involved in a rock pool survey with Professor Hawkins from the University of Southampton, (you can read about Kayleigh’s experience on the project here, too).

How did you hear about the opportunity to get involved in the rock pool survey?
Students set up a group off the back of the marine modules we studied to discuss interesting animals and plants we have found along the coast as a weekly fun activity through Covid. Corina was very pleased to see students engaged with the module and the extra activity of searching local rock pools. When Professor Hawkins asked Corina if she knew of any students who might want to help him, she asked the group as she knew we were very interested in the coast.

Can you tell us a bit about the project?
The project which I helped with was Professor Hawkins trying to understand the dispersal of the limpet Patella depressa. The limpet is initially further southwest, such as Cornwall and Devon, but with climate change, it has been dispersing further east with the warming temperatures. He hadn’t visited Hasting rock pools for years and wanted to see if he would find the limpet as this would be the furthest east ever recorded for the limpet. He did, it was very exciting, but then the realisation that it had meant that global warming is very present and that east southern coasts temperatures are increasing allowing for this dispersal. We also took photos of barnacle coverage to understand how much of the rocky shore is being colonised by barnacles in different locations.

Why did you want to get involved?
Taking part in extra activities with visiting lectures helps me see research from different perspectives and different ways of surveying.

Tell us about the work and the most valuable things you learned.
I helped look for organisms in the quadrats, but not the limpet, as they are very hard to identify. I also took photos of the barnacle’s coverage for his team to count once available.

I learned the value of patience. Some surveys will take a while and looking at each limpet in a quadrat needs your total effort. After a few hours, the limpet was found, it could have easily been missed, but focus was the key until the survey was complete.

Can you put into practice what you learned in the field to your studies? And vice versa – did what you have learned in your studies help your work on the project?
Yes, being able to complete successful fieldwork in ecology is a huge part of the subject. Just the experience of watching and helping made my next fieldwork experience feel less scary, and I felt more confident in being able to complete it.

It did help me feel like a career that involves being out collecting the data is important for me.

Would you recommend your course? What in particular would you recommend?
Yes! If you are someone who knows you want to be involved in ecology and conservation but are unsure on which area of this subject you want to explore, this course allows you to experience multiple topics and research areas to a level where you understand a useable about of knowledge which allows you to learn if you want to carry on with the topic. The course also allows you to make your own subject choices under a main research area, allowing the freedom of flexibility in your personal research.

What have been the highlight(s) of your course so far?
The course highlight would be the field trips, one taking place in 1st year, and the second was to catch us up with missed opportunities from Covid-19. Each lecturer arranged activities that meant the week involved a huge range of ecological techniques, including bird watching, grass ID, rocky shore transects, and river surveys. The trips involved all year groups, and everyone was so friendly. The lectures took time to plan this extra event to ensure we are ready for our future careers, which showed how much they want us to succeed.

What has been your favourite module so far, and why?
Not to sound clichéd but I have enjoyed every module as all allow for you to choose a discussion point for a presentation or essay, but the module that surprised me the most was a module that I had to choose because of Covid restrictions. GIS and Remote Sensing is a geography module that I would have never been intrigued to take, but this module became one of my top picks. Again, the flexibility for you to pick your subject of focus. The teaching and the coursework were completely different from the other modules and allowed for creative thinking alongside scientific logic. And understanding a different side of data and investigation really helped me understand the information we see every day. I enjoyed it so much I am taking the Advanced GIS module in my 3rd year.

What made you choose Brighton and this course?
The course at Brighton allowed for a much wider range of module options than others that I looked at. The course is run by a great team of active researchers collaborating between multiple UK and overseas universities. It also felt like a university which would be very accepting, allowing people to be themselves.

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