Thought all the exciting research in the Institute was centred in Glasgow city itself? Think again! On the banks of Loch Lomond sits the University’s field station, the Scottish Centre for Ecology and the Natural Environment (SCENE), which hosts an array of exciting field and lab based studies. SCENE’s remote location means that staff and students can be resident for long periods of time, giving it a unique working atmosphere. Three of our new Masters students have joined Naturally Speaking to give you a first hand account of settling into, living and working in what is arguably the University’s most beautiful location.
‘Behind the SCENE’, a new feature within Naturally Speaking, will be posting regularly from January 2016, on the second Monday of each month. It will feature the life, research and quirks of living full time at SCENE. Can’t wait? Want to find out more? Well, you are in luck! Read below for a sneak peek Behind the SCENE.
Behind the SCENE
Hello and welcome to “Behind the SCENE”, where we give readers an inside look into life at the University of Glasgow’s Scottish Centre for Ecology and the Natural Environment (aka SCENE). The majority of our entries will focus on our lives as masters students, with updates on our studies and exciting research at the field station, along with some fun adventures thrown in. We also plan to have a few guest blogs from the staff here at SCENE and will feature work done by visiting researchers.
Who are we and what do we do? We are three students at the University of Glasgow studying an MRes in Ecology and Environmental Biology, while living full time at SCENE. Our names are Angus, Eleanor and Simon. Despite two of us having very Scottish names (apparently!), Simon is the only one of us born and raised in Scotland. Our masters course provides us with an amazing opportunity to experience the best of what Glasgow and Loch Lomond have to offer. As well as going to classes in Glasgow, we will be able to focus our research projects around fieldwork in the beautiful habitats surrounding us on the shores of Loch Lomond.
Located in the middle of the Trossachs National Park, SCENE is the ideal location for the Institute’s ecological research. On the banks of Loch Lomond, the field station is surrounded by fish filled waters and beautiful forest, perfect for bird and mammal studies. There is also a bounty of invertebrates—although unfortunately for us, the most conspicuous invertebrate is the blood sucking midgie.
One of the joys of living at SCENE is that every day is different. With the continuous ebb and flow of research and fieldwork, some days there are only a handful of us around while other days the field station is teeming with people. An important part of the day at SCENE is the coffee mornings, which have recently been reinstated after the summer. At 10:30 the bell rings and we rush out for hot coffee and biscuits provided by whoever is on the rota that week. It’s a great way to meet and chat with everyone about what they are doing, get that needed mid-morning caffeine boost, and pig-out on chocolate biscuits. It can be an unusual feeling living right above where you work. In a matter of minutes, you can travel from the quiet of the upstairs living area and bedrooms to the hustle and bustle of the office downstairs. There’s no getting stuck in traffic when you’re based at SCENE.
During the week, we travel to Glasgow for our masters courses, which are in full flow. Perhaps our most profound lessons have been on the basics of scientific writing, where we have learned that even the simplest things, if done properly, can make a huge difference when it comes to the quality and clarity of our work. It is as rudimentary as using commas and apostrophes correctly, which is not so easy to work out sometimes. We are also working hard on statistics courses, discovering the joys (and frustrations) of coding, visualising data and interpreting statistical outputs. It is certainly going to be a big part of our lives for the next year.
After our classes we make our way back home to SCENE. Most of the time we drive, which takes almost an hour each way, but this gives us plenty of time to contemplate the world around us and listen to music. As soon as the city is behind us, we find ourselves in the gorgeous Scottish landscape gazing at the Trossach hills rising up in the distance (if the weather is good enough). It is always exciting to see the Loch and know we are almost there. The drive is certainly worth it!
It is early days for us, so we have not yet started our own research projects. For now we are trying to explore the beautiful area that we are lucky enough to live in. This has included climbing our first Munro, Ben Lomond, and swimming in the freezing, yet refreshing waters of Loch Lomond.
As our research projects emerge and we explore more of this unique place we are learning to call home, we look forward to sharing our adventures with you, and hope you come back to hear more stories from behind the SCENE.
(All images are the copyright of Angus, Eleanor and Simon)