Sunday saw us being split into different groups for projects, each led by a staff member who is an expert in their chosen field. Dr. John Quinn took his budding ornithologists for another bird practical. Dr. Fidelma Butler ran a practical on beetles in the sand dunes, Dr. Ruth Ramsey and Dr. Sarah Culloty chosen to hold her practical on fowling in rocky shore ecology in the local beach, Dr. Gavin Burnel squeezed for lucky students into his rental car and drove to Salgados for a more in depth practical on the fiddler crabs. I myself elected to go with Prof. Matthijs Schouten and his talented assistant Monique to assess the floral and faunal composition of an area of abandoned farm land.
So at 11.00 am (the first lie in we have had) we departed on foot through the beautiful town on Alvor and we arrived at the farmland and where Prof. Matthijs (or Matty as I am sure he is tired of us butchering the pronunciation of his name) gave us a detailed introduction about how we will carry out the floral habitat assessment in our selected areas of Woodland, Grassland and Matos(open shrub land).
With our heads full to the brim with information about the habitats we set to work. In our chosen zone we mapped out the area and collected all the relevant data which would be later used for our project and also collected samples of all the types of plants we could find in our area. I actually found a plant the Matty couldn’t identify, which I didn’t think was possible! He restored my faith by not only identifying all the other plants but also finding 30% more plants that I had missed on my walkthrough! We collated our data with the other groups and we left all happy with our days’ work.
What I am staggered by is how much we have learned this week. We went from a group of students who refused to even answer a question about the Algarve for fear of looking stupid to confidently identifying the soil type, type of habitat, as well as most of the plants by their Latin name! This last week has been amazing and for any second years presented with the opportunity to go on this trip it is a must!