Year 13 A Level Biology Trips

Year 13 Biology Trip to The Big Cat Sanctuary and Shorne Park
On Friday 11th October, Year 13 A Level Biology students went on a trip to The Big Cat Sanctuary and Shorne Woods Country Park, in relation to our studies on biodiversity and conservation. When we arrived at The Big Cat Sanctuary, firstly we had a talk which went over the principles of the big cat sanctuary as an ex- situ conservation organisation. Their vision is to assist in the conservation of the world’s endangered big cats to preserve breeding integrity and to assist in the return of big cats to the wild wherever possible.  We were told about the main causes of endangerment to the big cat species, including the critically endangered Amur leopard. Unfortunately, the major cause of the decline of big cat species around the world is human activity, including poaching (for the high demand illegal wildlife trade), clearing extensive areas of land (that would otherwise be habitat) for agricultural use (eg.for palm oil plantations), urban sprawl into big cat territories and more.climate change also indirectly affects big cat species.

However, it is not all doom and gloom as we learned that many conservation projects and agencies around the world are doing their bit to protect these species and ultimately their aim is to prevent them from becoming extinct. For example, artificial wildlife corridors have been installed to allow the migration of populations so they do not become isolated from each other. Isolation would lead to a reduced gene pool and therefore less genetic variation in the species, meaning increased susceptibility to disease etc.

As well as learning about the big cat species we also looked at some of the smaller cats that are often forgotten about. The highlight of this was definitely getting to watch videos of the elusive (but extremely cute) Pallas Cat filmed using a camera trap!

Next we got to see some of the 50 cats who are resident at The Big Cat Sanctuary, in the flesh! This included a whole pride of lions and a White Bengal Tiger. The white fur of the White Tiger, is caused by a lack of the pigment pheomelanin and it is caused by a rare double recessive gene carried by the parents. 

After visiting the sanctuary, we went to Shorne Park to carry out some fieldwork where we used randomly generated coordinates and quadrats to collect data on the diversity of plant species. This allowed us to carry out the essential fieldwork skills required in A-level Biology.

Overall, the trip gave us an exciting insight into conservation, which I think is really important in today’s world, where wildlife and the natural environment are threatened more than ever.    

 BCS 2   tiger   Shrone 1

Emma 13A

Kew at Wakehurst Place and the Millenium Seed Bank 

For the first half of our Biology field trips we visited Wakehurst which is home to the Millennium seed bank - the largest and most genetically diverse seed bank in the world which works with 80 countries. We were fortunate to be taken down to the ‘vault’ to witness how these seeds are stored. Most seeds are stored via cryopreservation in which they are stored in freezers at -20° after undergoing drying and cleaning. The seeds were surprisingly stored in something as simple as Kilner jars which prevents moisture getting to the seeds. Through these measures the lifetime of these seeds is extended by 1404 times! We even got to take a look at the cold proof suits which the scientists must stylishly wear to enter the freezers.

One poster that caught my attention said ‘You are currently standing in the most biodiverse place in the world’ which is insane considering we were simply in an underground laboratory. It was fascinating to see the hard and intricate work going towards conserving plant species which is often undersold in comparison to animal conservation which in actual fact relies heavily on plant diversity.

On our final part of the day, after exploring the grounds and gardens for living plants rather than just seeds, we carried out an experiment called electrophoresis. This used specialist laboratory equipment many of us were yet to use hence was extremely exciting. My personal favourite was wearing a lab coat embroidered with the logo for Kew Gardens which may not be specialist equipment but was ever so exciting. The aim of the experiment was to determine whether imported wood was from a sustainably managed forest or illegally logged by comparing the DNA to a reference sample. 

All in all, it was an intriguing day helping to embroider my scientific understanding of plant conservation by bringing it to life. It also taught me exciting things I would never have learned otherwise, such as the fact that the Coco de mer seed is the largest in the world at around 18kg.

Kew 2   Kew 3   Kew 4

Caitlyn 13E


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