Field Study Skills

In Field Study Skills students will have the fantastic opportunity to learn practical skills on the ZSL Whipsnade Zoo’s very own Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).  Home to rare plants species, students will demonstrate both random and systematic sampling techniques.

Using keys and state of the art digital equipment, students will record the presence/absence of a species, calculate percentage cover for each species and record abiotic factors.

Results will be recorded into specially adapted datasheets which can be further analysed back in school/college using ZSL resources.

We are now taking bookings for this session starting September 2016 


Key Stage: 5

Duration: 3 hours (10:30 - 13:30; 11:30 - 14:30; 12:30 - 15:30) 

Capacity: 35 Students.


Specification Links (September 2015 onwards):

AQA AS/A2 Biology

3.4.6 – Biodiversity within a community

  • An index of diversity describes the relationship between the number of species in a community and the number of individuals in each species.

3.7.4 – Populations in ecosystems (A2 only)

  • Populations of different species form a community. A community and the non-living components of the environment together form an ecosystem. Ecosystems can range in size from the very small to the very large.

  • The size of a population can be estimated using: randomly placed quadrats, or quadrats along a belt transect, for slowing moving or non-motile organisms.

  • Conservation of habitats frequently involves management of succession.

Students could:

  • Investigate the distribution of organisms in a named habitat using randomly placed frame quadrats or a belt transect.

  • Use both percentage cover and frequency as measures of abundance of a sessile species.

Edexcel Biology A – Biodiversity and Natural Resources – Topic 5 – On the Wide Side

  • 5.1 – Understand the terms ecosystems, community, population and habitat.

  • 5.2 – Understand that the numbers and distribution of organisms in a habitat are controlled by biotic and abiotic factors.

Core Practical 10

Carry out a study of a habitat, such as quadrats and transects to determine the distribution and abundance of organisms, and measuring abiotic factors appropriate to the habitat.

Edexcel Biology B – Ecosystems - 10.1 – The Nature of Ecosystems

  • i)   Understand what is meant by the term ecosystem and that they range in size.

  • iv) Know the ecological techniques used to assess abundance and distribution of organisms in a natural habitat, including types of quadrat, transects, ACFOR scales, percentage cover and individual counts.

  • v) Be able to select appropriate ecological techniques according to the ecosystem and organisms to be studied.

Core Practical 15:

Investigate the effect of different sampling methods on estimates of the size of a population taking into account the safe and ethical use of organisms.

OCR Biology A (A2) – 4.2.1 Biodiversity

  • i) how biodiversity may be considered at different levels.

  • ii) practical investigations collecting random and non-random samples in the field.

Include how sampling can be out i.e. random sampling and non-random sampling and the importance of sampling a range of organisms in a habitat.

  • How to measure species richness and species evenness in a habitat.

  • The use and interpretation of Simpsons index of diversity (D) to calculate the biodiversity of a habitat.

WJEC AS/A2 Biology

AS Unit 2 Biodiversity and Physiology of Body Systems

1. All organisms are related through their evolutionary history.

H) Biodiversity as the number and variety of organisms found within a specified geographic region.

J) Biodiversity can be assessed in a habitat e.g. Simpsons Diversity Index.


A2 Unit 3 Energy, Homeostasis and the Environment

5. Population size and ecosystems.

D) The sampling techniques used to assess abundance and distribution of organisms in a habitat.


Intended Learning Outcomes:

Students will be able to:

  • Investigate the distribution and abundance of organisms using both quadrats and transects

  • Use digital equipment to measure abiotic factors

  • Compare management techniques on two different chalk grassland habitats

  • Calculate Simpsons Diversity Index


For this session:

Before your visit

  • Read the Field Study Skills teacher information pack before your visit to familiarise yourself with the activities your students will be participating in on the day. All students should have the data packs to bring with them on the day.


During your visit


After your visit

  • Encourage wildlife in your school/college grounds by building a bug hotel.

  • Use the Lincoln Index to measure population sizes of individual animal species. Download the KS5 Field Study Skills pre-visit sheet.

Pre-visit sheet

Before your visit download the Field Study Skills pre-visit sheet to use with your students:

PDF icon KS5 Field Study Skills (365.51 KB)