Russell Graham Russell Graham Russell Graham

This section is actually the smallest section of the Guidelines because most thought and care goes into activities that happen before and after you do the field work.

As explained in the previous section, before you go into the field you must know the following - or you will probably be wasting your time:

  1. What questions you are investigating (Where, when, how many, etc.?),

  2. Where and how you are going to collect the data. If possible, you should have practised using your sampling devices.

When going into the field you must take:

  1. Maps of your study area if you need to find a specific area,

  2. Species lists (descriptions and drawings) if you have had time to prepare them in advance,

  3. Tape measures and other sampling devices so that you can work out where and how to take your samples,

  4. Data sheets, pencils, etc. so that you can record your data.

A list of suggested equipment is provided on Sheet 6.

Behaviour!!! It is very important to consider the way you behave while doing your field study. Some behaviour is appropriate and other behaviour most certainly is not.

 Russell GrahamDo not take anything away from your study area except for the things that you took there. Do not leave any of these behind. Do not harm, destroy or unnecessarily interfere with the animals and plants.

Even if you think that you are not doing any harm, you may be. For example, if you prise limpets off the rock-platform to look at them, it is very likely that they will not reattach before the tide comes in and washes them away. Don't do this. Don't pull flowers off the bushes just so that you can draw them more carefully. Don't kick over rocks, or pull the leaves off trees.

Other behaviour is important for your own safety. Do not work alone - always be within sight and sound of others in your group. If you are working on the seashore, do not turn your back to the waves. If you are near the water's edge, give someone the job of looking for big waves and warning others. Various DO'S and DON'TS are listed in Sheet 7.

There are also good reasons not to work alone which have to do with the information you will be collecting. If you work with other people and talk amongst yourselves about what you are doing and why you are doing it, you are far less likely to identify or sample things incorrectly. It may be a good idea for some members of the group to do the measuring and counting and for others to be responsible for the data sheets and recording the data. Things are less likely to go wrong if everyone is not trying to do everything and each person has a particular task or set of tasks that he or she is responsible for.

Otherwise, have fun and work hard. Observe carefully, record your data accurately and write everything down. Do not decide that you can fill in the gaps later - that is not collecting information, it is guessing. Do not use short-hand or clues that only you can understand - you will probably forget them. Make sure that each data sheet is labeled with your name, the area (or grid or quadrat that you are sampling), the date, etc. Put completed data sheets in your bag (or somewhere safe), so that you can concentrate on the task in hand.

Above all - keep talking - about what you are doing, what has been done, what still needs to be done and who will do it. Get together for 5 minutes every hour or so to ensure that you are all following the same rules or appoint a few people to move among the different groups and check up on what everyone is doing. That is the only real way to keep working as a team.

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Centre for Research on Ecological Impacts of Coastal Cities