BSc (Hons) Biological Sciences - Slapton Ley field trip

Slapton Ley field course

Slapton Ley field trip by biological sciences by students with Professor Richard Billington
Slapton Let, South Devon
Fieldwork - Slapton Ley, South Devon

Where do we go?

In the second semester of the first year, you will spend 5 days at the stunning nature reserve of Slapton Ley, about an hour and a half from Plymouth. Here you will stay at the Field Studies Council site, right in the middle of the national nature reserve, and surrounded by an array of habitats including ancient woodland, farmland, marshes, and reedbeds, and right on the edge of the pretty village of Slapton itself.

Why do we go there?

The field centre has been hosting school and university groups since the 1960s, and has the experience, equipment, and knowledge to give excellent support to students of biology (and related subjects). We are on the doorstep of a whole range of interesting habitats that allow us to study native birds, mammals, invertebrates, and plants in their natural habitat. The knowledge and skills that you have been developing over the first few months of your course will be put into practice in this beautiful environment.

What do we do?

Although the activities we do depend somewhat on things like the weather and the specific staff that accompany the trip, the field course will focus on (a) learning how to identify a range of UK species from plants to mammals; (b) developing the skills to gather reliable data in the field; (c) keeping field notebooks, that accurately record information and data for future use; and (d) 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: 
  • Studying the behaviour of birds, including their feeding behaviour, breeding, and territoriality.
  • Identifying birds in woodland and on the lake, both by sight and through the use of sound recordings.
  • Investigating the diversity of aquatic organisms, and how this is influenced by water quality.
  • Trapping and identifying small mammals, and identifying bats from their ultrasonic calls.
  • Learning how to conduct field surveys, of birds, aquatic invertebrates, and terrestrial invertebrates.
The trip will end with a project which you will design and conduct while at Slapton. There is plenty of opportunity to tailor your project to your own interests, and students have in the past successfully completed projects on broad range of subjects including:
  • The behavioural responses of wild birds to novel objects.
  • Distribution and abundance of native earthworms in different types of pasture.
  • The feeding preferences of bloody nose beetle larvae.
  • Mapping the territories of male song birds, including the locally rare Cetti's warbler.
While at Slapton you have the chance to see some elusive mammals, including otters, badgers, foxes, and deer. We visit the site in spring, meaning that the whole range of local British wildflowers are in full bloom, bringing with them a diverse array of invertebrates and the birds and bats that feed on those.

Trip information

When: Late April/early May in the second semester of first year
Where: Slapton Ley, Devon
Length: 5 days and 5 nights (residential)
Accommodation: Shared rooms in the field centre, which is very hospitable and well equipped.
Food: Excellent ethically sourced breakfast and dinner provided by the field centre. Make your own packed lunch each day from the options provided after breakfast. Vegetarian and vegan options always available.
BSc (Hons) Biological Sciences - Slapton Ley field trip
BSc (Hons) Biological Sciences - Slapton Ley field trip