Last Monday, myself and Thomas Fleetwood-Law were lucky enough to be invited to participate in a Field Studies Council (FSC) research day in Regent’s Park, folllowing our success in the UK Intermediate Biology Olympiad. We met in the park offices - where we were greeted by a group of other enthusiastic Sixth Form students, all eager for the day to begin.

Holding a fish

The day started with a fascinating session about the history of Regent’s Park - I for one was staggered to learn how biodiverse it really was - with over 45 breeding hedgehogs, as well as countless rare aquatic species. This had been greatly improved by the 2008 biodiversity action plan - which ensured that active measures had to be taken to conserve species.

Before long, we went into the field. We surveyed the species found in the meadow - learning how to safely trap species of butterfly (which involves using a giant net, twisting it at the perfect moment so you can place a pot over the butterfly without crushing the wing). Unfortunately, I was unable to master this technique - but did manage to catch an incredible species of spider, which unfortunately went on to eat some of the other insects I caught in the pot.

Insect in a jar
Spider in a jar
Butterfly in a jar

It was fantastic to be surrounded by people as enthusiastic about biology as us. Over lunch we were all dicussing exam technique with our guide - who actually marks the ecology section of A Level Biology exams.

After our (near-interrogation!) of the examiner, we then moved on to sampling the pond areas. Having not been sampled for over a decade, the data we recorded will be used and put on permanent record as an indicator of the species present in Regent's Park. We were able to catch numerous fish and leaches. It was really interesting to learn about the effect that crayfish had had on the local area - causing a profound shift in the species of invertebrates in the pond area. We caught three of these - and were shown how to kill them humanely with a natural sedative.

Overall, it was a really fascinating day - and on behalf of both of us, I’d like to thank the FSC for providing such a helpful set of activities.