This project is based at the Knepp Estate in the Low Weald of Sussex, which is Britain’s premier and most famous rewilding site. The 3500 acre estate is being returned to a pre-human habitat by almost abandoning human intervention in the management of the landscape and allowing fields to revert to natural vegetation. Fallow and red deer, wild horses, long-horn cattle to mimic the effects of the extinct auroch and pig to mimic wild boar control the vegetation on this unique estate to produce a patchwork of different habitats. Beavers are being introduced to help restore the wet grassland and wetland habitats.
This approach was started in 2002 and has turned out to be visionary with many other farmers now looking to similarly restore areas of the country using this approach. The effect on wildlife has been breathtaking including massive increases in floristic diversity, insect abundance, many more butterflies including special species such as Purple Emperor, growth in the abundance of threatened bird species such as nightingales, and turtle doves and 13 of the 17 bat species returning to the land.
This course is aimed at those participating positioning themselves to be able to benefit from the anticipated explosive growth in career opportunities in wildlife management and climate change careers in the UK (see Opportunities in the UK jobs market for ecology and climate change careers)
Practicals are aimed at introducing methods used to quantify a range of different taxa. These include practicals on UK Hab mapping, terrestrial invertebrate surveys including Malaise trapping, water pans, pitfall traps, light traps, Pollard counts for butterflies and sweep netting, bird point count and mist net surveys, reptile search transects and cover boards, amphibian spotlight and tadpole surveys, DISTANCE sampling and camera trapping for large mammals and sound surveys for bats.
There is also the opportunity to learn how to use canopy access techniques to be able to undertake surveys in tree canopies. This is an optional extra course costing £170 provided by Canopy Access Ltd and you can do this half day practical instead of one of the other practicals being offered.
For part of each day the participants will be learning how to analyse large data sets using R (open source software used in most universities) so that skills are acquired to write up science reports based on data collected from field surveys. This is an important skill to acquire alongside the field survey skills if wanting to work in field ecology. The courses starting on 12 and 26 June are designed for those with some level of knowledge about R (even if only basic) and the courses starting on 10 and 24 July for those with no experience at all of R.
In the evenings there will be presentations from professional ecologists or climate change specialists in how they developed their careers.
The aim of the course is to give the participants experience in how to complete field surveys and write up field reports. The course includes practicals on a range of taxa and also in how to anylase data sets using R and write up science reports from field data. In addition the course includes evening presentation from professional ecologists or climate change specialists in how they developed their careers.
The British summertime is somewhat hard to predict, usually average daytime temperatures from June to August are between 18°C and 21°. Rainfall can be variable on site from very dry weeks to wetter weeks. It is important to check up to date weather forecasts before departure.
Fitness Level Required
Medium – there can be long walks and terrain varies depending on research location with some being flat and others more challenging.
Facilities in the camp site are basic (sleeping in tents), with a mixture of compost and temporary toilets. There are some limited opportunities to buy snacks. Phone signal can be good in certain areas of the site.