UCL Division of Biosciences


Latest News from Blakeney Point

1 November 2022

UCL’s MRes in Biodiversity, Evolution and Conservation and MSc in Biodiversity and Global Change start with a field trip to Blakeney Point in Norfolk. Experimental design, group bonding and wildlife make for a packed visit.

UCL has been taking biology students to its field station at the Old Lifeboat Station on Blakeney Point for more than a century, making this one of the oldest field courses in the world.

A trip to this iconic nature reserve on the North Norfolk coast, in the east of England, is now the first teaching experienced by students on our MRes in Biodiversity, Evolution and Conservation and MSc in Biodiversity and Global Change. This year, 38 students made the trip out by train, coach, boat and – unexpectedly – foot, to begin their year at UCL in wild style.

A death's head hawkmoth. Image by Prof Tim Blackburn.

Image: A death's head hawkmoth. Photo by Professor Tim Blackburn. 

The first item on the field course agenda is always a tour of the Point, to be introduced to the geography, geology, and ecology underpinning the highly dynamic ecosystems on a spit of land that didn’t even exist 600 years ago. We inevitably encounter some of the special plants and animals that make their homes on the Point, from samphire to seals.

Then it’s back to the Old Lifeboat Station to set the students a question for them to answer over the next couple of days. We get them to think about experimental and sampling design, and some of the many pitfalls that beset science “in the field”. They then design and carry out sampling to gather data to answer the question set. If they’re lucky, the sun might shine on their endeavours. 


Image of a snow bunting taken at Blakeney Point by Prof Tim Blackburn.

Image: A snow bunting at Blakeney Point. Image by Professor Tim Blackburn.

The field trip isn’t all about work though. There’s time for the students to explore the Point for themselves, share a glass or two, play games and bond over hearty meals prepared for them by UCL cooks. Getting to know their fellow students – and some of the key staff supporting them through the rest of their course – is just as important a part of their trip. It also helps the staff to get to know them too. We hope they bring back happy memories of their first few days as UCL Masters students, as well as lots of good-quality data to analyse once they’re back in Bloomsbury.

Further information: