12 October 2018
The group stayed in ‘glamping’ huts, yurts and tents in the heart of the rewilding project for three days, learning how an intensive arable farm has been transformed into open wood pasture within two decades. This has generated diverse habitats and breeding hotspots for a range of critically endangered species as well as potential improvements to soil structure, carbon sequestration and flood storage.
The field trip included a safari tour in a Pinzgauer ATV with Knepp’s resident ecologist Penny Green. Students explored how grazing ecology has been used to inform the reintroduction of large herbivores including deer, Longhorn cattle, Exmoor ponies and Tamworth pigs, as proxies for ancient species that would have once roamed the landscape. Vegetation disturbance from grazing, browsing and rootling combined with vegetation succession introduces a complex vegetation structure and diverse habitats.
This inspirational site enabled the students to explore key concepts in contemporary environmental management and conservation: process-led environmental restoration, working with natural processes, whole-ecosystem and landscape-scale restoration and the delivery of multiple benefits. In addition the group conducted ground-based and aerial surveys of the award winning river restoration project on the River Adur, which runs through the estate. Students gained hands-on experience in a range of cutting-edge field techniques for the acquisition of geospatial data including Structure-from-Motion photogrammetry, Terrestrial Laser Scanning and digital photogrammetry captured using the School of Geography’s UAV (drone).
“The field trip to Knepp Wildland was the perfect opportunity to apply cutting edge techniques and gather our own data to use on the Data Acquisition module,” said Will Flynn, one of the students on the MSc Environmental Science by Research course. “Being in the heart of one of our few truly ‘wild’ environments in Britain was also a great opportunity to get to know course mates and lecturers for the remainder of our masters course. A great experience!” he added.
Students will now be analysing the datasets back at QMUL, using a combination of statistical and geospatial analysis techniques as part of the GEG7319 Environmental Data Acquisition and Analysis module.
The field trip was led by Dr Gemma Harvey and Dr Alex Henshaw from the School of Geography's Earth Surface Science research team.