Monday, 18 May 2009

School beach survey

Today I worked with a great school group on Shoreham Beach Local Nature Reserve. The course (secondary school level) focuses around a practical beach survey.

The course started with an introduction to the nature reserve and its links to the surrounding area through coastal geography - using archive materials and maps. This focused on the Cretaceous period when the chalk and flint were formed and the end of the last ice age when much of the shingle beach material was deposited in the English Channel. This was then shaped by natural process including longshore drift. We also discussed the fascinating maritime history and other key historical facts. Most people are surprised to discover that Shoreham was far more important than its more well known neighbour Brighton until the Victorians made the seaside popular and accessible through rail travel.

The pupils were taken down to the beach to study the rare vegetated shingle habitat. The class was divided into two groups. The first group undertook a beach plant profile survey starting at the top of the beach and recording the plants in each 1 metre square until they reached the shingle crest (about 40m at this point). We used a 20 m tape and 1 m canes to create the metre square (the usual quadrat would not work because of the size of the plants).

While this was happening the second group was being led around the reserve to look at examples of shingle plant adaptation to this harsh exposed habitat.

The pupils also recorded the wildlife that they saw. Unfortunately it was a very windy day and so most of the mobile wildlife (bees etc) where not visible. We did see two butterflies (a red admiral and a painted lady) woodlice, snails and this lizard.

When the survey was completed, the groups swapped activities. This is the result of the two survey.

The pupils used this data and the adaptation observations back in the classroom to answer questions about the vegetated shingle habitat.
The pupils also used their experiences on the beach to suggest threats to shingle beach habitats both global and local and propose solutions.

The pupils also brought back one pebble from the beach for further study. We discussed the pebbles and the reasons why the flint pebbles were different colours, shapes. We also discussed fossils, uses of flint through the ages and myths and folklore relating to shingle pebbles. (The pebbles were returned to the beach at the end of the day). It was a very enjoyable day and a great bunch of kids.


liz said...

Hi Steve,
Great work.

I have been surveying Shoreham Beach for a few years now with my pupils and I wish you had been with us.

Do you have any quadrat data we could borrow?

I will be surveying again next summer and I hope you can input in some way.


Steve Savage said...

Hi Liz

Only saw your comment today.

This is the first school group that I have worked with in such a formal way. I have mainly worked with schools exploring the shingle beach habitat, plant ID, adaptations etc along with coastal geography and maritime history.

I am hoping that I will be able to repeat this particular session and have plans to improve on it.

We have just had a base line plant community survey completed by an ecologist and I am hoing to link further school survey work with this report.

What school do you teach at and what age are the pupils?

You can cointact me via this blog.

Hope to hear from you.