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Royal Geographical Society (with IBG): the heart of geography
Moorland ecology lesson one - Case study
Moorland ecology lesson two - Data analysis
Moorland ecology lesson three - Practical task

'From the Field' Awards

Inspiring fieldwork supported by the RGS-IBG

Extreme tourism - Lesson three: Practical task

One of the challenges of Rose’s work was the location of her fieldwork sites.

First of all she had to drive up to the top of the moorland, a long drive from her University or part time base. She then had to walk, carrying all her equipment for two and a half miles across undulating and often boggy terrain, before she could start work. She set up her equipment and then waited for the bees to arrive. If it was too windy she was unable to work, as the bees would not be flying.

Starter

Health and safety on the Moors

One of the main issues for any field researcher is that of health and safety. One of the requirements of gaining funding is that this has been appropriately assessed, and this formed part of Rose’s funding application.

Bleaklow in the Peak District

Image copyright: Rose Wilcox

Identify some possible health and safety issues for someone working in an area like this.

Share ideas with the rest of the group, and fill in the health and safety risk assessment form PDF | MSWORD.

The main survey location is close to the following latitude/longitude: 53.4600°N 1.8626°W

Use Google Maps to travel to the location where Rose has been working:

  • Open Google Maps and put the latitude and longitude above into the location box then click the Search button
  • You will be taken to a point on the road over Bleaklow, near where Rose was working, and where she parked her car. Visit this location using Google Street View by dragging the yellow ‘peg man’ onto the map. Look at the images of the moor, and move along the road for a while so that you appreciate what the landscape is like

What equipment and clothing do you think Rose would need to take if she was working outside for most of the day? (Remember that she was on the moor for most of the time between April and September 2011)

One issue for Rose was that there was no mobile phone signal at the site where she was working as it is a very remote location, and she was also working alone.

Add those factors to the Health and Safety risk assessment form, and suggest how Rose could make sure that somebody knew if she injured herself or was taken ill while on the moor. From where she was working, she had a two and a half mile walk over the moorland to get to the car, and then a further 15 minute drive to get to the point where she had reception.

Main

Rose’s work was also affected by a range of environmental factors that affect field research. We are going to explore a few of these.

Identify an area of the school field that is going to become your own ‘heather moorland’ for a lesson.

Rose’s work is very weather dependent. If the wind speed is above 10 miles per hour (16 kilometres an hour), she cannot carry out her work as the insects would not be active. Visit the BBC Weather page for your school’s location and identify the predictions for wind speed.

Suggest which days during the next week Rose will be able to carry out her work.
You can also use bubbles to identify the wind speed at your fieldwork location. Bottles of bubble mixture can be purchased from most newsagents or Poundshops, and are relatively inexpensive.
This is part of the OPAL Climate Survey – you can read more about this exciting opportunity for students to research natural events.

This will give you an idea of the wind speed across your school site. Imagine that you are an insect, where might you feel the most comfortable and sheltered?

Critical thinking

  • What will wind speeds be like as you move closer to the ground?
  • How will bees be affected by the wind?

Lay out several transects across your chosen study area on the school field.

Use a tape measure or a piece of string and a compass if necessary to keep them straight.
You will need two canes to produce a one metre quadrat. Work in groups of four or five to move along the transects and carry out some data collection. Use the recording sheet PDF | MSWORD to measure some of the things that Rose did.

Explore the changes in two different areas of the school site, and produce some appropriate data visualizations. Produce some brief conclusions.

Here is some further advice from Rose on how to make the survey match her work more closely. 

"The beauty of this project is that the methodology can be used on any flowering habitat so any woodland, park, or field should be fine for what you need to do, as long as there are two variables or different areas for you to compare".

The project in the school will really depend on the season it will be carried out in and the facilities the school has to offer. This could be a wildlife area, or perhaps the school field with a border where wild flowers may be growing. If this is not the case would it be possible to organise a trip for the pupils to a local park, or if the school is in an appropriate area even to open moorland?

A Spring/Summer project could involve pupils forming groups and each group choosing a habitat feature to focus on e.g. shaded/non-shaded, near footpath/open field, sloping/flat and so on. They could then, health and safety depending, catch flower visitors in sweep nets and easily transfer them into glass tubes which would allow species identification without needing to euthanize the animal. Identification could either be done in the field or they could take photographs and identify specimens back in the classroom.

An Autumn/Winter project could still use the same field sites but instead the pupils could use quadrats to look at vegetation density/percentage cover.

How can you identify plants if you are not an expert?

These might help:

  • Answer questions and this site will try to identify plants for you – type in some of the plants that we have mentioned in this unit to see it working.
  • The Field Studies Council sell nice laminated keys

Homework and follow up task

Rose’s work is related to the restoration of moorlands after a fire has damaged it. For more information on this threat to the ecosystem, you can use this activity which is taken from the Peak Practice section of a resource produced by Alan Parkinson of the Geographical Association. It was produced with support from the Teacher Learning Academy.

Most people imagine that the moorland areas of Britain are wild landscapes criss-crossed by a few lonely paths. They would be surprised to find that moorlands are heavily managed and that there are a range of careers involved in moorland management.

Who is responsible for making the decisions in these areas? What are the issues? And how could your students get involved with moorland management as a career choice?

This extended interactive activity sequence is likely to be used for between one and three lessons, by KS4 students.

Teachers who make use of all three sections will engage students in decision making, data analysis, group work and the use of ICT skills. ICT access and/or the ability to play sound files would be helpful.

A range of resources are provided which will require teacher involvement initially, but may allow for further homework research with more able groups, to extend the scope beyond fire control to other aspects of National Park management.

You can download a whole range of materials to explore the management of fires across an area like Bleaklow in the Peak District National Park.

Additional research task

There have been several major fires on Bleaklow over the years. They tend to occur in summer, when the peat dries out, rather than in winter when it is heavily waterlogged.

The fires can spread underground and continue smouldering for weeks or months. Their remote location also makes them hard to tackle.

Using appropriate Google searches, put together a newspaper-style report on one of the fires that has affected the moor in recent years.

Moorland Restoration

The Moors for the Future Partnership (MFF) is an organisation formed in 2003 with the aim to improve damaged heathland across the Peak District by restoring large areas of bare peat and connecting heath fragments.  Visit their website and investigate the work of the partnership.

Can you find examples of images of restoration and footpath creation in the Peak District?
One place to try is Geograph
.

Imagine that you have been asked to work on the moors to identify some suitable areas for improvement. These would include: areas of bare peat, or footpaths which are showing signs of being eroded (perhaps widened across large areas of the moorland).

  • Use Google Earth to locate Bleaklow
  • Explore the terrain of the area using Google Earth to view the images at an angle
  • View the Panoramio photographs that are dotted across the moors
  • Produce at least three screenshots which can then be annotated to identify specific problem areas which might benefit from some regeneration

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