Azores fieldtrip
We run two field courses for BSc (Hons) Biological Sciences students. In Year 1, you will have the opportunity to go to southern Spain and in Year 2, you will visit the Azores. Full details of these trips can be found below:

Zahara de los Atunes, Spain

Students in Barbate, Cadiz, Spain
Spectacular aerial view panorama of Lake Zahara from Castle of Zahara de la Sierra, a famous village de la Ruta de los Pueblos Blancos, white villages, between Cadiz and Malaga, Andalusia, Spain.
Students in Zahara, Cadiz, Spain

Where do we go?

In the second semester of the first year, you will spend nine days in southern Spain at Zahara de los Atunes. The town is situated on the beach overlooking the Strait of Gibraltar with Africa visible over the water.

Why do we go there?

The rich Mediterranean flora and fauna coupled with excellent weather and many diverse habitats within a short distance of the town allow us to carry out a wide range of activities on the field course. As the summers are very hot in that area, spring is an excellent time to visit as many plants are flowering and invertebrates are numerous. The area is also famed for bird migration as its proximity to Africa makes it an ideal crossing point for summer migrants entering Europe.

What do we do?

The field course will focus on (1) learning how to identify plant and invertebrate species; (2) developing the skills to gather reliable data in the field; (3) keeping field notebooks that accurately record information and data for future use; and (4) designing and conducting field-based research studies to generate original biological knowledge. As an example, we would expect to include some or all of the following activities: 
  • ecological sampling methods
  • habitat investigations in a variety of diverse habitats for flora and fauna
  • ecology and conservation of coastal habitats.
The trip will end with a project which you will design and conduct while in Spain. There are plenty of opportunities to tailor your project to your own interests, and students have in the past successfully completed projects on broad range of subjects, including:
  • the diurnal behaviour of beetles
  • the effect of invasive species on native flora and fauna
  • variation in pollinator visits to diverse floral taxa
  • the association between parasitic plants and their hosts.
The area of the field course allows you to see some of the specialities of the Mediterranean ecozone, including the European chameleon, a wide selection of Fabaceae, birds including the white stork and bee-eater, and butterflies and moths including the Spanish festoon and emperor moth.

Trip information

When: April in the second semester of the first year.
Where: Zahara de los Atunes, Andalucia, Spain.
Length: nine days and eight nights (residential).
Accommodation: Shared rooms in a hotel in Zahara.
Food: Breakfast and dinner provided by the hotel. Make your own packed lunch each day or grab lunch in a local tapas restaurant. Vegetarian and vegan options available. 

Our fieldwork at Zahara, Spain

Watch this video to see our students and academics talking about their experiences on their first year fieldtrip in Spain.


Students on fieldwork in the Azores with BSc (Hons) Biological Sciences
Students on fieldwork in the Azores with BSc (Hons) Biological Sciences
Students on fieldwork in the Azores with BSc (Hons) Biological Sciences
As a part of the second year of our BSc Biological Sciences course we will take you to follow in the footsteps of Darwin in the magical archipelago of the Azores. The Azores have been described as the “Galapagos of Europe” and share many geological and biological characteristics with their Pacific counterparts and form part of Macronesia. Our field course is based on the main island of São Miguel which mixes modern European culture with traditional practices and plenty of exceptional biology. The field course takes place in late summer, just before the beginning of the second year.

Why do we go there?

Isolated oceanic volcanic islands have fascinated biologists as “laboratories of evolution” for many years. The Azores provides us with an excellent opportunity to consolidate your theoretical knowledge from the first year with field observations, experiments and surveys related to evolution. In addition, they offer a classic island flora and fauna with many endemic species that suffers from various anthropogenic pressures such as invasive species and pollution. Being volcanic in nature, they also provide a number of novel habitats that we can study including crater lakes and hot springs. All of these things are not available in the UK and mainland Europe thus the Azores give you an almost unique opportunity to study biology.

What do we do?

This depends year on year due to availability of field sites, weather and the particular academics that accompany the trip and their specialist interests. We try to mix the consolidation of theory with the learning of skills to study biology in the field and lab. Below are a few examples of exercises that you might do. Due to a very fruitful collaboration with the Universidade dos Açores, you are able to use their lab space such that you can analyse samples collected in the field. 
  • Surveys of invasive plant species
  • Habitat survey of a reforestation project for the endemic Azores Bullfinch
  • Morphological measurements of the endemic Azorean Ivy to study its evolution
  • Microbiology, ecology and physiology of microorganisms living in hot springs
  • Eutrophication of crater lakes
  • Boat-based surveys for cetaceans
In addition to the formal exercises, you will also visit a number of interesting sites such as a tea plantation, the botanic gardens and numerous beautiful habitats.

Trip information

When: Late August/early September between the first and second years
Where: São Miguel, Azores (Portugal)
Length: 7 days and 7 nights (residential)
Accommodation: University halls of residence, shared double rooms
Food: Dinner provided in university refectory, for breakfast and lunch there are a number of opportunities to visit a local supermarket to buy provisions to make packed lunches and breakfast.