Biology Field Trip Showcase

In the summer of 2013, Biology A-level students from Strode and Yeovil colleges embarked on a two week field trip to Madagascar. This was an opportunity to experience first hand the effects deforestation is having on this unique environment and the resident wild life.

They visited several National Parks including Ampijora and Andasibe where they trekked in search of lemurs. During their two week visit they saw a total of 15 different species out of the 113 which inhabit Madagascar. These included Indri, Sportive, Red Bellied and Sifaka lemurs. Their guides were very knowledgeable and students learnt about the biological relationships between organisms such as one between snakes and ants. Andasibe also gave students the opportunity to see some of the nocturnal life of Madagascar. As it started to get dark students readied their torches and eagle eyed they set off for a night walk.

Olivia Shoemark from Sparkford said ‘The trip proved to be far more educational than I imagined. We had the opportunity to bombard our guides with questions hoping that this information will stay with us for a long time. This also encouraged us to think about the biology behind rainforest life and to put theory into context. We could have learnt this information in the classroom but learning through first-hand experience is so much more valuable.’

At Pereyras reptile farm students saw close up a large variety of indigenous reptiles, some of which they were allowed to hold; including Nile crocodiles, Madagascan tree boa, Tomato frog, Leaf tailed gecko and a Panther Chameleon. The farm also houses a family of Tenrecs, which look like a cross between a hedgehog and a guinea pig.

The trip was also an opportunity to observe the culture and life of the Madagascan people. They saw locals cultivating rice in the vast number of paddies. This was followed by an informative tour of a spice garden which included vanilla, cocoa and cinnamon. Students learnt about how the plants are adapted to their environment, along with the process of getting the vanilla from plant to plate.

On one day they stopped to visit a passing high school and met the students and teachers. In the evening students were treated to a musical and dance performance by local children. Most of the students were encouraged to participate!

On another day they came across a community building where a group of French volunteers from the International Aid charity Tulipe were giving medical aid. The queue of local villagers stretched for over 50m.

The trip concluded with a brief stay on the small island of St. Marie to scuba dive and whale watch. After a training session in the pool students had an amazing 10m dive in the sea where they saw a huge variety of coral life. The whale experience was carried out with a research team so students were involved in collecting data as well as getting a spectacular close up look at the mating behaviour of several humpback whales.

This residential is the Fourteenth such adventure made by Strode and Yeovil student biologists. Previous destinations have included Uganda in 2011, Belize in 2010, South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and Zambia in 2009, Vietnam in 2008, New Zealand and Australia in 2007, Costa Rica in 2004 and Sri Lanka in 2002.