Last month CBESS and MASTS joined forces in Morecambe Bay to deliver a NERC funded residential skills development course for eleven postgraduate students and early career researchers. Leading researchers in the field of mudflat and saltmarsh ecology were brought in from institutions around the UK to impart their knowledge and experience of planning and conducting and major field campaigns in coastal habitats. The one week long course was based at Arnside’s YHA hostel, where we were excellently hosted by new owners Leah and Martin.
Nearby, the vast saltmarsh and mudlfats at Warton Sands provided the ideal location for teaching advanced field techniques used in the study of these habitats.
It also provided the perfect (and less planned) demonstration of the need for caution when working in areas of quick sand!
Under the guidance of experienced field researchers from the CBESS network, students were taken through the process of experimental design, data collection and analysis, and logistic considerations for working in the field. This involved hands on experience with the latest equipment for measuring biodiversity function, including Cohesion Strength Meters to measure sediment stability, NDVI to measure vegetation cover, and Gas Flux to measure carbon dioxide sequestration.
Drawing on the expertise of CBESS researchers, specialised sessions were ran for macrofauna identification, up-scaling of biodiversity distribution, reserve management, microbiota, saltmarsh ecology and biological trait analysis.
The course culminated in a student-led session, in which pairs were tasked with planning a sampling campaign for a hypothetical managed realignment of the Eden Estuary, requiring the amalgamation of all the material they had learned over the week. Given the success of this course and the positive feedback from both students and staff, CBESS and MASTS will be seeking funding to run the course again in 2015.