The Diary of an Ecology Apprentice: Mapping & Diverse Plant Species in Cornwall
On his second residential trip to Cornwall with other Ecology Apprentices, Matthew carried out a mapping exercise at Carloggas Downs and explored its China clay spoil heaps and diverse plant species. Find out more about his latest trip to Cornwall and his sixth month as an Apprentice at Baker Consultants in his latest diary entry
My second apprenticeship residential was a week dedicated to QGIS, the geographical mapping software I have used on a regular basis since joining Baker Consultants. Most of my classmates have never used it, so it was good to be able to help out in our classroom sessions each day.
As a mapping exercise we visited Carloggas Downs, an area of restored China Clay spoil heaps, and did a Phase 1 survey that we then mapped on QGIS. It was infested with invasive species such as rhododendron, which we also mapped. The whole area is regenerated industrial land after being used for quarrying China Clay and is where the Eden Project is now situated. The views up there of the coast and the Carluddon Tip are amazing.
Although the mapping wasn’t new to me, I did learn to use it for creating topographical maps using contour lines, which are used to scope out dangerous slopes. This could potentially be helpful here for our peat surveys and management plans as peat cannot form on steep slopes.
The site visit that stood out for me most though was Par beach; it is one of the top ten most plant diverse square kilometres in England, with over 600 species recorded. We were showed around by Dan Ryan, who is a fantastic naturalist and a leader of higher education at Eden Project Learning. His tour was very insightful, and we learnt a lot about the history of Cornwall and what made this small patch of beach so special.
The heavens then proceeded to open, which was timed perfectly as we got to do the tour then run straight to the cars and head for refreshments at a local pizzeria/brewery. It was a great social event, especially spending time out of class with our lecturers and getting to know the whole group in a different context. That’s one of the attractions of the ecology world, even though the survey season makes for lots of long hours outdoors, the time spent with colleagues in the field naturally gives us a more social connection than you would get with a desk job.