April 24, 2013, by Beca

Portugal Field Course

So here I am, after a week’s recovery in my own bed, two days waiting for my bag to get back from Lisbon and a cheeky trip to Sandhurst to play netball, I’m finally getting the chance to sit down and write properly about the Portugal Field Course.

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A week watching crab spiders within my groups experiments was long enough to fall in love with the little creatures; yes they tested our patience with their almost constant escape attempts then by taking it a step further sometimes and eating one another but in the end, you can’t deny they’re kind of cute.


One of the females morphs (they could also be red or white)

We watched them in little terrariums, petri dishes and even tried putting little markers on their backs with glue to try and recapture them in the meadow and generated lots and lots of data so that when the sun was really trying to tell us we were in Portugal, we could sit inside and do statistics.


Marked spider in the meadow


The meadow of the Quinta

Daytime was for working while evening were for eating something that wasn’t bread rolls (ie, best meal of the day) and just generally chilling around the Quinta, cards got rather competitive towards the end of the two weeks, primarily spoons.  It wasn’t all go go go though, midway through we had a day off which basically translated as an invitation to explore Lisbon.


The view from the castle


No biologist can resist taking a photo when the opportunity arises


You can’t go to  the west coast of Portugal and not at least attempt a little surfing can you?  I wasn’t great, not even good, but it was one of the most fun things I’ve ever done – half because I could laugh at other people and half because I could laugh at myself.  I did manage to stand up a few times though – at which point I was that shocked I promptly fell off again.


Exploring wasn’t just saved for Lisbon with its old town full of port/wine shops, it’s castle walls and streets of souvenir shops, nor was it hunting for proper ice cream shops for ice cream that tasted just like frozen chocolate mouse.  One lunchtime one of our rather eccentric lecturers took us all on a plant ramble and actually managing to make plants seem interesting for once.  We tried a few flowers and fruits as well as learnt which to avoid.

After presentations on the final day began the big tidy up before everyone relaxed with a few drinks and waited for the BBQ to begin. REAL FOOD! I was almost too fed up of bread by this point to warrant having my burger in a bun… almost. The evenings entertainment was a Portugese folk group who had everyone up and dancing before the famed manager of the site brought out his flute and played SAMBA! We’ve also immortalised our year in the guest book too 🙂


For all the work that was put in and still is (which reminds me, I should probably be working on my write up right now) I would love to still be there.  It was a chance to see another side of biology away from the usual view of research being mainly lab based.  For the first time since starting my degree I’ve found an interest in research, now I just have to decide whether to follow it or not.

Posted in 2012 Beca