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Field work – understanding and communicating

I designed the conceptual framework, got the ethics approval and with the John Ray Trust’s Summer Research Grant, I went to collect the majority of my samples in North Devon.

One enviable side of studying brambles is that they can be found everywhere. Both at sandy beaches, around saltmarshes or old mining fields. When applying for travel grants, I picked one of the most beautiful parts of the UK where I cut down and pressed 200 bramble canes, walking along the public footpath, next to the sea.

By spending all day looking at brambles, climbing up and down and examining them, it is easy to notice patterns in their growth. The way leaflets can be 3-foliate or 5-foliate on one cane, seeing different kinds of plant pathogens and herbivores on them – gives an extensive ‘literature review’ in a way.

Also, it exposed me to talk to strangers who were looking at me suspiciously – with one meter long sheers, gardening gloves going up to my elbows and having protective trousers made me look unique. Once I explained that I am a science student, I suddenly became normal in their eyes and mentioning that they just passed three microspecies on their way, I was asked a lot of questions. I had the opportunity to chat half an hour to a German couple, showing different morphological characters and had two ladies who actually took pictures of me with brambles because they found all of this hilarious. My AirBnB hosts were all kind to me, letting me dry and press samples in their living rooms.

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