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30th September 2020

Students study forest and plant diversity at the Englefield Estate

A-Level Biology students from Reading Blue Coat School have carried out their fieldwork project on the Englefield Estate, after their residential field course was cancelled due to COVID-19.

As part of a study on ecological succession, 20 biology students visited woodland near Mortimer to look at the forest at different stages of its natural regeneration.

The students collected data via smartphone apps on different plant species within a quadrat to understand the diversity and percentage plant coverage.

Charlotte Bamforth, Teacher of Biology at Reading Blue Coat School, and Health and Safety Compliance Officer for the Englefield Estate, said: “Pupils planned and organised their own fieldwork. They completed data collection using entirely digital means, identifying plants species using various apps and recording data on their own handheld digital devices.

“It was wonderful to be out and about and to see such a range of sites which showed natural succession. Just being able to observe plant and animal species which many had not had the opportunity to do before was excellent, especially in such a nearby and beautiful area. It was just a shame we didn’t see any of the elusive adders!”

Students have since used the data to carry out a species diversity comparison of two sites to see the effect of succession on plant diversity. Soil samples will be processed to investigate how the pH of the soil and organic matter content changes as succession occurs.

“It is invaluable to gather data in the field to see if our observations translate into statistically significant trends or links,” Charlotte added. “It was also a welcome respite from the stringent COVID-19 measures inside school because we were able to effectively distance outdoors. If only all teaching could be outside all year round!”