L6 Biologists visit Harcourt Arboretum

Friday 31st May 2019

The L6 biologists undertook a field study day at Harcourt Arboretum to develop their A level practical skill requirement of sampling.  The objective was to evaluate the biodiversity of various habitats in relation to differing abiotic and biotic factors.  It was also key to understanding the importance of biodiversity and its conservation.


Various sampling techniques were used, including quadrats, point quadrats and line transects.  Students were then able to use their collected data to calculate the Simpsons index of diversity and compare the biodiversity of different habitats at the arboretum. Biological drawing skills were also developed as students recorded the most abundant grassland plant in our meadow sampling, which was the Meadow Buttercup.


It was a very productive day in a stunning location that enabled important sections of the syllabus to be explored, with the guidance of an Oxford University expert.


You can read some of our L6 students’ thoughts of their trip to Harcourt Arboretum below.


“This trip enabled me to learn valuable skills involved with calculating biodiversity. We learnt how to correctly sample plants dependent upon the habitat site; for example due to the habitats containing plants of a larger size we used a point quadrat.

We used species evenness and species richness data to calculate the biodiversity within a habitat, using Simpson’s index of diversity. This was useful to apply our knowledge that we learnt in the classroom to a real life scenario.

To distinguish different species of plants we used a key, and this improved our identification and recognition ability of different species. Finally, we drew a scientific drawing of a buttercup which helped to improve our skills in that area.” – Emily O

“We spent the day investigating biodiversity focussing on three study points: the distribution of Dog’s Mercury with varying light intensity; a coppice diversity survey and calculating the index of biodiversity; and lastly studying species diversity in two areas within the Arboretum’s meadows.

It was a hands on approach to learn some of our biology content while enjoying the sun and taking pictures of our drawings for our Practical Assessments, although some may have got slightly more distracted by the peacocks than the plants!” – Lucy E

“The biodiversity trip to Harcourt Arboretum was a very useful addition to my Biology A -level course and understanding of biodiversity. It held the advantage of outdoor, first-hand learning rather than listening within a classroom from a textbook, and additionally offered practical experience in the form of data collection (such as the distribution of Dog’s Mercury) and observational drawing of buttercups from the buttercup meadow.” – Jaz L

“I found the trip to Harcourt Arboretum to be a huge insight into what we were only really able to talk about in theory in class. It has clarified the real-life application for the techniques we have studied, and allowed me to see how much of a real importance biodiversity has on habitats and sustainability.

We learnt about succession using two meadows, which were models we could take samples from and do a realistic comparison. The day gave us opportunities to ask an expert in her field our questions, which was very interesting. Overall, the day was enlightening and gave me a greater depth of knowledge about what we have recently studied.” – Ellie P