The sun set as our plane circled the island to land- which meant it took a while to locate our hire vans. Efficient communication via the walkie talkies ensured we were soon on our way, winding up the mountains in the dark. As one of the lecturers pointed out ominously, ‘at least we can’t see the precipices’. The next morning we were able to see what we’d been missing, and it was, if you’ll pardon the pun… Tenerific (pun creds to Kate Freegard).
After breakfast and a discussion about what might cause the holes in the laurel trees’ leaves, we packed our traditional Spanish lunches of chorizo sandwiches and melacoton juice and headed to a nearby Laurel forest. The aims of the day were to observe the zonation in the forest as we descended to the coast, and to work in groups to collect data and address our hypotheses about the laurel leaf holes. We were focussing on the endemic flora, learning to identify the common ferns and trees, but a dead rat or two stopped us zoologists in our tracks (one had maggots- what a treat!). Eventually the forest thinned out and we stopped in a sunny spot overlooking the sea to learn all about the birds and the bees… the kestrels, chiff chaffs, and bumble bees that is.
After a leisurely lunch and a chance to reapply the factor 50, some of the group were worried about the return hike, but Tom reassured us there ain’t no mountain high enough. As we made our way back, we stopped at 50m elevation intervals to sample the plant species. On returning to the hostel we re-grouped and presented the findings of our mini projects- hold the press, Nature. After an insect lecture in preparation for tomorrow’s invertebrate practical (or as I like to call it, the Bug Hunt) we discussed sampling methods for different organisms and avidly took notes, because we are keen to commit what we learn in the classroom to memory for future practical use. And because the word ‘exam’ was mentioned.
After our first day of science in the field, we had all worked up an appetite, but it’s safe to say nobody had ‘mushroom’ for seconds. Bring on the Bug Hunt!
*Darwin sailed to Tenerife on the Beagle, but much to his ‘misery, oh misery!’ they were met by the local authorities and told to wait offshore for 12 days, due to a cholera outbreak in England. Captain Fitzroy deemed this to be a waste of time, and they sailed on. Darwin never set foot on what he anticipated to be ‘one of the most interesting places in the world’.