Aberystwyth Biology Trip

Biologists in the Bus

The sun scorched on the morning of Tuesday 14th June as a group of Concord College’s 6.1 Biology students boarded the bus to Aberystwyth for their Biology Required Practical 12 field trip. For approximately two and a half hours the bus ran along uneven and twisty roads. Suffering from motion sickness, my breakfast decided to escape from my stomach onto the bus floor!

Upon arrival, we were welcomed by the picturesque seaside view flanked by colourful buildings and fish-and-chips restaurants. Gathering near the minivan, the Biology teachers distributed bottled water, wellies, clipboards and practical write-up sheets to the students, who were busy applying sunscreen. Students were divided into three groups to investigate the distribution of species along the shoreline.

Crabs, Snails and Seaweeds

For our first activity, we investigated the population ratio of female to male common shore crabs by capturing the crabs and recording the number of crabs of each gender before releasing them. To differentiate their gender, we noted that the male has a concave, narrow and triangle pleon (crab abdomen) whereas the female has a convex pleon which is broader and rounder. Next up, we identified different species of seaweed based on their appearance such as channeled wrack (with curled fronds), spiral wrack (heart-shaped bladders), knotted wrack (aka. egg wrack due to its egg-like bladders), serrated wrack (bladders absent and jagged edge) and bladder wrack (air-filled bladders along the length of flat branching fronds). The rocks were rather slippery which made navigating through the area tricky. Also, my left welly had a hole so my sock was soaked wet from beginning to end.

At noon, we paused to eat our packed lunch at the shore.  The afternoon’s activity consisted of estimating the population size of thick topshell using the mark-release-recapture method. We were given 30 seconds to capture as many topshells as we could. Similar-looking periwinkle sea snails tried to be imposters but failed to escape the clever eyes of Mr Brown who filtered the results of our scouring to eliminate periwinkles. We then marked the topshells with non-toxic markers and released them for the next group to recapture. To distinguish between the two species, we noted that topshells have ‘teeth’ inside the mouth of their shells. Moving on, we measured the lip size of dog whelks using vernier callipers. We learned that dog whelks drill holes on the shells of barnacles with their radulae to feed on them. Finally, our last task was to investigate the distribution of algal species on different zones of the sheltered shore. At the lower shoreface, Mr Brown spotted a huge edible crab, went all out into the water and got it in his hands, making the crab a celebrity that many students took turns taking pictures with.

Fish-and Chips!

Packing and clearing up after the last activity, we enjoyed a fish-and-chips dinner at Prom Diner before bidding Aberystwyth farewell to go back to Concord, exhausted but glad to skip evening prep time. It was definitely a productive field trip as not only did we gain a broader understanding about marine species, but we also learned scientific investigation methods through hands-on experience at a beautiful Welsh beach.

Irisa – 6.1