Field-based Teaching

Field-based Teaching

Students in the fieldAberdeen is a great place to teach Biological Sciences because we have such good access to fantastic natural habitats including coast, moorland, mountains, freshwaters and forests.

We also have our own field stations, including one at Cromarty on the Moray Firth, where our sea mammal researchers are based. Many of the academic staff in Biological Sciences are involved in field research in Scotland and overseas, from the Tropics to the Arctic, and our experiences influences what we teach on our courses.

We also strongly encourage students to gain field experience for themselves during their degree; here are some examples of how they do so.

Fieldwork within courses

Many of our courses include local field trips or small field projects; examples include:

  • Students in the fieldsurveying bird diversity in contrasting environments
  • visiting and debating the appropriate management of a nature reserve
  • studying the ecology of an estuary
  • vegetation succession on sand dunes and moorland
  • engaging in creative outdoor activities to consider perceptions of the natural world

Residential field trips

Students in the fieldMost students take one field trip during their degree, many take two and some take more.

Students always say that these trips bring the subjects they are studying to life and provide the opportunity to make great friendships and to get to know staff well.

Honours projects

Student in the fieldAll students in Biological Sciences do their own research project in their final year of study, and many of them take the opportunity to do a field based project.

This may be alongside one of our major research projects, in association with an external organisation such as Scottish Natural Heritage or RSPB, or through an overseas expedition.

Each student is supervised by a member of staff with appropriate expertise – be it in dolphins, water voles, rare plants, tropical forest ecology, climate change in the Arctic, or any one of a diverse range of other exciting topics!

Summer field assistants

Student in the fieldWe really encourage students to get involved in our research and quite a few join us as summer field assistants, which is a great help to us and great experience for them.

This isn't just in Scotland; students also sometimes have the opportunity to work with us in Africa, South East Asia or the Arctic.

Other training

Shetland field tripIn addition to all the opportunities we can provide, we really encourage students to take training courses with other organisations and often help them to apply for funding.

Examples include a wide range of Field Studies Council residential courses (with student places funded by the British Ecological Society), day courses run by the North East Scotland Biological Records Centre and the amazing Tropical Biological Association field courses.

A student making the most of fieldwork opportunities... meet Francesca!

Francesca JaroszynskaFrancesca, who came to university with a love of hill walking, started out as an Ecology student, but has now transferred to our MSci Biology degree. She chose to spend her second year on an ERASMUS exchange in Norway (at a university which teaches in English!).

Her year began with a month’s field course in alpine ecology which she loved and so, by contacting lots of researchers, she got taken on as a volunteer assistant on an alpine plant ecology project in Norway for the following summer. Francesca returned to Aberdeen determined to do alpine ecology for her Honours project. She found a supervisor with relevant expertise who put her in touch with a Swiss ecologist who is coordinating a Europe-wide survey of mountain summit vegetation.

As a result Francesca did a project re-surveying mountain tops in Perthshire, which had originally been surveyed 100 years ago, to investigate how the vegetation has changed. Francesca then spent the rest of the summer working as an assistant with the mountain summit survey team in the Swiss Alps!

Next year she is planning to do her MSci project with ecologists from Trondheim, in a large alpine grazing experiment in Norway…

Exciting field work opportunities are available to all students who take the initiative - and we strongly support them in doing so.