Biology in the field

07 Mar 2017

The problem for many science students is that what they learn in school simply does not seem applicable in the real world. So, in order to address this problem, the Year 12 Temple Basin biology field trip provides students with a hands-on, challenging and enjoyable experience.

The idea is to show students biological concepts are everywhere in our world and that to have an understanding of such concepts is actually useful. A focus on understanding biological concepts on a fundamental level makes the Temple Basin field trip a huge success for those who participate and leaves students with the realisation their efforts in class are not in vain.

In order to get to the Temple Basin lodge, the trip begins with a 1–2 hour hike up a mountain, providing even the most physically able students with a challenge and starting the process of applying biology with a surprisingly intense demonstration of anaerobic respiration.

After settling in, a good night’s rest prepares students for the data collection process. This involves learning how to identify the different species of plants found in Temple Basin – a difficult task given the subtle differences between some species. With this newfound knowledge, students take systematic samples as they make their way up a hill, starting at a modest stream and ending in bare rock. Using a tool called a quadrat, students measure how frequently each species is found within an area at each sample.

After collecting the data, students are left to apply it and use it to describe and explain an ecological pattern within Temple Basin for the first biology internal assessment of the year. In the case of Temple Basin, a clear pattern of what is called zonation can be seen, as different species dominate in different zones of the hill, as the hill changes from a swampy stream to a bare rock face.

The trip did not end there, however, as completing the internal was followed by another hike further up Temple Basin to a lake 1600m above sea level. Although draining, the exercise was well worth it, as an unrivaled view of the area reminded students why Lord of the Rings was shot in New Zealand.

Finally, after hiking back down to the lodge and participating in obligatory school camp games like “table traverse”, students enjoyed a final night in the lodge before hiking back down the mountain and heading home.

For me, personally, this trip really enhanced my learning and provided me with some insight into what biology has to offer, particularly when it comes to jobs and problems that need solving. And, although the hikes did not invoke such emotion – except perhaps a little bit of profanity as the lactic acid kicked in – the views and satisfying sense of achievement made it worth the pain. I know it is an experience I will look back on with pleasure.

Wills Wynn Thomas, Year 12