Algarve Fieldtrip Diary 2012

BEES staff and students in the Algarve for the annual ecology field trip

My name is Léan O’ Connor and I’m a third year Zoology student at UCC, who has the wonderful pleasure to be writing this from the (not so sunny at the moment) Algarve, where my class, along with Ecology and Plant Science (EPB), are completing the AE3013  field course.

Day 1 (28 March 2012)
Getting 48 students to Cork airport from 5am on the 28th of March, was not as difficult as expected, and we all made it to Faro airport without any major dramas (except for a few well placed comments on plane crashes to a certain person<me> who’s scared of flying). We were situated in our hotel by noon but, no rest for the wicked, we were straight into introductory lectures on behaviour, timetabling, field equipment and assessment. We were introduced to 2 guest lecturers, the wonderful Sir Matteus Schouten and Dr. Monique Nooren , who joined us for the trip and are an invaluable resource.

We walked to an area of rough ground, less than 10 minutes from the hotel, and situated right next to a main road, which was an abandoned farmland containing orange, fig, and olive trees. Based on observations from this brief study, Matteus gave an insightful lecture on the land use, history, economy, and general habitat/environment of this beautiful region, while we basked in the sun (25 degrees!!), and listened, of course!

We came back to the hotel, and although exhausted, most of the class somehow struggled through and managed to do some studies of the nightlife the Algarve provides! I will admit, there were some very sunburnt faces in pictures!

Day 2 (29 March 2012)
The next day consisted of a morning spent on the rocky shore close to our hotel sampling animal species, and the afternoon was something everyone was looking forward to- the Fiddler crab behavioural study. This was something we had heard a lot about from students who had been to the Algarve in previous years, and imagine our disappointment when we discovered it was too cold for the crabs to emerge from their burrows. What was even more disappointing was the fact that John O’ Halloran pointed out that it was actually 20 degrees in Cork! That night the rains came, and very few people had the dedication to brave the town.
>> You can check out Fiddler Crab behaviour in this video by Stephen Bean, Senior Multimedia Content Producer for UCC <<

Day 3 (30 March 2012)
Up and ready for 9am Friday morning to discover that the rains had barely lightened, we had some lectures in a nearby hotel’s conference room, while we waited for the weather to clear. We had an extremely useful lecture on wildlife macro photography from Steve Bean, which inspired a ridiculous number of photographs of ants and dung beetles being taken that afternoon in the Salgados sand dunes.

The actual aim of the trip to the Salgados was to complete a habitat study and habitat map, which was completed, but the ants and flamingos, were definitely the coolest part. The weather had most definitely improved, but you would never imagine we were a group of Irish students if you heard the amount of complaining that started following a few drops of rain! After making it back to the hotel just in time to avoid a very dramatic thunderstorm, we settled down to write up reports, and I wrote this, looking out the window at the rain, in Portugal…madness!

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