Biology, ecology and biomedical science at Brighton

University of Brighton biosciences blog

lake with grassy bank

Autumn colours

Since my last blog I have been keeping very busy! Autumn is a busy season for the FSC, here at Malham Tarn we have had multiple A-level groups, GCSE groups, University groups and more. I have been supporting the tutors in grassland ecology field sessions, helping to learn about various surveys techniques, plant identification and more. This has really helped me to improve my own plant identification and each week I notice myself becoming more confident and remembering more and more plants. I have been given the opportunity to lead more groups through the peat bog, discussing with them how it is formed, succession and the important species it is home to.

One of my favourite activities to lead is the evening bat walks, where we walk a group of students along routes that skirt the woodland and circle the grassland, telling them how bats communicate with echolocation and highlighting some key aspects of their ecology, benefits to humans and threats to their survival. It is wonderful to see their excitement as the bat detector begins to click as a Soprano pipistrelle, Common pipistrelle or Noctule flies pass, there is something very magical about hearing but not seeing these amazing mammals! 

I have also assisted geography walks with the primary school children, hiking from Malham Tarn, to Malham cove and back through the dry valley, during which we discuss the formation of the surrounding landscape through glacial retreat, ice melt and river erosion. I was also given the opportunity to lead a campfire session, where I showed the girls how to build a fire using wood, cotton and igniting using fire stools! Then I shared campfire stories and lead gameswhilst students feasted on marshmallows, it was a wonderful evening and the students said they loved it. 

As part of maintaining the running of the centre, I have also been cleaning classrooms (for the quick turn around of groups), taking on dinner service shifts (which is a great chance to meet the groups and discuss their interests) and clearing the many rooms here at Malham Tarn! Which Is a good chance to relax, put some music on and it helps to get the bearings around the area and take a closer look at the beautiful architecture of this historical building. I have also been given roles such as check-ins, which includes welcoming visitors, explaining ‘house rules’ and sharing nuggets of history about the estate and the landscape. Similarly, I do intro/ welcome talks to larger groups which is similar to check-ins, but more detailed and gives me the chance to highlight some of the history and beauty of the environment and building, as well as a lovely chance to meet the groups and ensure they feel welcomed and cared for.  

Last week, we had the outdoor writers and photography group  (OWPG) in for their annual award ceremony, in which I checked guests in, gave a welcome talk, helped in delivering a specially designed menu and more! On the Sunday, one of the guests, John Suttcliff, was leading a limestone walk through the area and invited me to join. Luckily, I have the morning off, so joined the group on their 6.5 hour hike which lead us along picturesque historical pathways, to Gorgale Scar then down to Janets Foss, along to Malham cove and the 400 steps to the limestone pathway above, concluding by tracing along the dry valley in which we found and explored caves, saw beautiful panoramic views, water sinks and springs and so much more! I learnt a lot from this group and very much enjoyed joining them on their adventure.

The following morning, I discussed with some of the group, my growing enthusiasm to try caving and climbing, which they eagerly joined in and invited me along in the future. The leader of the limestone walk, John, was kind enough to gift me a copy of his book ‘Cape to Cape’ and Chris Howes, gave me four issues of their caving magazine ‘Descent’ for inspiration, as well as a book we had written called Spice of life- Biodiversity and the extinction crisis, I was very grateful to all of them for teaching and inspiring me, I think I will be picking up some new hobbies in the summer.  

On my other day off I took myself to explore the Mesolithic cave, where people found Xliths from York, showing previous hunter-gathers travelled to Malham cove to fish in the Tarn and hunt the mega fauna, whilst staying in the small limestone cave! I didn’t find any Xlith or fossils myself, but was amazed by the caves secret beauty and the species of cave spiders I found! I am very much enjoying every moment here and seizing each lesson and opportunity that is offered to me. I am off for more adventures so bye for now! 

Ella Scott • November 1, 2021


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