Seven Smiling Students Celebrate Science at the Seaside


Photo © Jamie Gundry: Gallant Girtonians gathering gobies in gaiters: Chloe, Heather, Kate, Konrad, Sarah, Sophie and Stefano, came to Girton from Morpeth, Cramlington (both in Northumberland), Brussels, Berlin, Derby, Burnley (Lancs) and Whitby (N Yorks.).

On 17th March 2014, seven first year students from Girton College set off to Orielton Field Centre for the first year Evolution & Behaviour Field Course. They spent a week in the company of scientists, demonstrators and 30 students from other Colleges getting alternately cold, wet and dirty in the great outdoors, and making the acquaintance of a range of aquatic animals, discovering the diversity of marine invertebrates and a few plants for good measure. Along the way there were talks from staff members about their research, and there were lectures revising and extending the course content. In the evenings, for those who could tear themselves away from watching their organisms in the lab, there was a walk across the Pembrokeshire fields to one of the most interesting and friendly local pubs in Wales. Add in the welcome from the Field Centre staff and the great food, including tea and cakes every afternoon, and you have all you could wish for.

The Field Course

Two Field courses are offered each year, both at Centres run by the Field Studies Council. One goes to the Orielton Field Centre in Pembrokeshire, and one to Slapton Ley Field Centre in Devon.

“Orielton gave me the chance to learn by seeing. Being out there and seeing platyhelminthes and annelids and anemones etc. was invaluable because it brought the lectures to life!

I had no idea how many worms we would find on the beaches at Orielton! Our project at the end of the week was on caddis fly larvae. I must have swam in rivers all my life with them all around me and have never even noticed before! And now I look at plants and animals, appreciate their diversity and think Gymnosperm or Angiosperm? - What might pollinate this? - Is this a convergent characteristic? etc.

I would definitely say go on the field trip! That is one thing that I think everybody there agreed on. The revision lectures were helpful and we gained a better grip on the lectures on plant and animal diversity but MAINLY I felt so inspired after it. That combined with some fresh air and being out in the field has not only increased my productivity since I got back but also completely reduced my stress levels. It reminded me that biology is fun!”

The Evolution & Behaviour Course

Evolution & Behaviour is one of the first year options  for the Natural Sciences (Biological) course at Cambridge.

“One of the best bits about the course is how much it ‘opens your eyes’ to a world even us ‘nerds’ had previously taken for granted.  I found the same thing when we went to the Cambridge University Botanic Gardens with our supervisor in November.

Bottom line Evolution & Behaviour (E&B) has made me engage with life that I experience day-to-day more so than the other courses and it is amazing!

However, talking to people who don't do E& B, I would also say that having an evolutionary perspective when studying Part IA Physiology and Biology of Cells, has been very complementary, and I know that some people who don’t do E& B feel they are missing out on that. So I would say that E&B is good as a stand-alone subject, but putting it together with other courses you get more than the sum of the individual parts. E&B ties everything together and makes all of the courses combined more exciting to study.”

For more information, please visit:

Natural Sciences (Physical & Biological) - Girton College

Cambridge University Botanic Gardens 

Part IA Evolution and Behaviour - Department of Plant Sciences

Field courses: Easter Vacation 2014 - Department of Plant Sciences

Evolution and Behavior Field Courses Vacation 2014 Leaflet (PDF)

Natural Sciences Tripos - University of Cambridge

Field Studies Council (FSC) 

Orielton Field Centre - FSC

Slapton Ley, South Devon Coast - FSC


Photographs © Jamie Gundry 2014



Published: 12 September 2014