by Pádraig Desmond
Towards the end of the 3rd year, one could be forgiven for forgetting why they first set out on a journey of biological sciences. As a mature student, I didn’t take the decision to apply to the School of BEES lightly and it involved a lot of consideration. The decisive factor in my own personal pursuit was the idea of being outdoors and actively accumulating data for studies I was personally interested in. Over the past three years, I have completed five intensive sets of examinations and completed countless continuous assessment reports under strenuous and challenging circumstances. Playing up to my enthusiastic ambitions, these reports were heavily field based with abundant environmental and biotic data collection, but despite being broad and fascinating, they somewhat lacked the thrill I expected of being in the field.
Until day one of the Practical Field Ecology field trip to the Algarve. After a relaxed initial morning of presentations on iconic species, my peers within both Ecology & Environmental Biology and Zoology set off on an afternoon of real field work in the breathtakingly beautiful Algarve. There was a contagious air of excitement filtering through the group as we ventured through the sand dunes, a new environment for all eyes to capture, full of novel plant and animal species to the Irish cohort’s mental repertoire. Our first task, to sit on the shores on Alvor Estuary in silence and anticipation of the emergence of our first study, the conspicuous but shy Fiddler Crab, stirred a satisfaction from deep within. This was a new species within a new environment that rewarded our imaginations after a small cost of patience. To me, this was field work in its true raw form.
Over the following few days, the group continued to explore, with the same eagerness and awe, the range of habitats the region had to offer, under the vastly experienced guidance of the extremely helpful and willing BEES staff. Mountains, saltmarshes, mudflats, rocky shores and skies were all scoured and scrutinized by students and staff alike, all in the hope of discovering something fantastic and wonderful. And with success. Often, excited gasps or yelps indicated a discovery, followed by a mass movement of 55 eager minds to stand over a tiny lizard, anemone or plant and indeed to the sky where birds soared above.
The six full days I spent in the Algarve as part of this module exposed me to the reality of my chosen path and with it, all it entails. We were exposed to adverse conditions from biblical rain and wind to scorching heat. Days were long and evenings were spent writing; but as a group of like-minded people, the overall mood remained eager and happy to do more. For me personally, this experience will remain deep in my archives as it ingrained the decision of my chosen path. This revitalised desire and ambition will no doubt drive me harder into my final year and help me achieve the personal goals I have set. Furthermore, the skills I have learned and practiced will undoubtedly be of use in any future career I find myself in. This module is of upmost importance to students in the school of BEES and I sincerely hope it remains for those who follow.