Biology Dissertation Fieldwork

Large-leaved lime leaf with numerous lime nail galls protruding from the upper surface

Since I’m entering my third and final year of my BSc Genetics degree very, very soon, I need to be thinking about my genetics dissertation. I have chosen to centre my research project on plant genetics and ecology – both in the field and in the lab. The organism of interest for my studies is the large-leaved lime, Tilia platyphyllos. Specifically, the large-leaved lime growing on its own (by which I mean, away from its close relative small-leaved lime or Tilia cordata, and the hybrid of the two, common lime or Tilia x europaea) in the South Downs.

Before setting off on the 4-5 hour drive down to the South East, I needed to request the equipment necessary for 5 days of fieldwork! After delivering an equipment list to a Technician, they will get it all ready in time for your trip – provided you deliver the list in advance, two days usually isn’t enough time! For my fieldwork, I needed a fair number of plastic bags, to safely secure leaves and soil; a handheld GPS unit, to record positions of trees; a laser distance measure, to measure the distance between trees; a measuring tape, to work out the diameter at breast height (DBH) from circumference; and a clipboard and pens, for recording measurements and marking bags.

After making it to the South Downs with Mark, the technician who would be accompanying me on this fieldwork – driving and taking samples and measurements with me, we set off into the wilds and tried to find our quarry.

Close-up of large-leaved lime tree bark

Our first day didn’t prove very successful.

After scouring databases for records of recorded large-leaved lime, I came up a little short but was still determined to sample from the area. On the first day, I decided to follow my hunches and check the sites that had shown very few or no records of lime but appeared to be the right kind of environment. Unfortunately, this was slow going and fairly unsuccessful, yielding us only three trees that day.

Fortunately, after shifting tactics to explore the sites further East that had more markers recorded for Tilia platyphyllos, we had a lot more success. Averaging around 30 trees from 2-3 sites per day, it was a pretty successful trip in the end. There were snags and hiccups, and my project may have changed slightly because of this- but that’s science! Nothing ever goes exactly according to plan, and that’s what keeps it interesting!

For more pictures of the trip, check this twitter thread, since they’re too large to upload here!

A Biology Dissertation Proposal

One of the compulsory modules in third year on any biological sciences undergraduate degree is the dissertation. This module is worth twice the amount of a single third-year module – and with third-year being weighed more than second, this amounts to a hefty percentage overall!

Perhaps some books from the new library in The Catalyst will help with your references!

The first part of the dissertation that is currently due in late June is the proposal. Worth 15% of the overall dissertation grade, this piece of work is focused on designing a scientific project that suitably addresses an identified knowledge gap within a field, whether it be ecology, human biology, or microbiology. The proposal for the biology dissertations is very similar to the proposal made for the research projects in the second year module Research Methods.

Part A of the proposal is an overview including context – does this project build on previous works; why is it important; how does it fit into our current understanding? Included in this section must be the project aims and a list of references used in Part A. It’s very similar to an introduction of a scientific paper, which starts out broad then narrows its focus until it is focused on a concise issue.

The Gantt chart I used in my second-year Research Methods proposal

The following part of the dissertation proposal, Part B, is all about the implementation of the project. This includes a clear indication of the research questions being asked; the methodology; timescale; and data analysis. Things to think about for the methodology include the basic experimental design – what kind of sampling and measurements are being taken, how many replicates, etc – sampling strategy, and sites. The timescale is an obvious one, but it might be an idea to include a Gantt chart to illustrate this clearly. Data analysis and management cover the statistical tests that will feature in the project and the tables used to record the data. This section should also feature difficulties that might be faced along the way, for example, the problems I think I might face are identifying sampling sites with my target organism and learning new programs related to genetic analysis.


The final parts, D and E, are all about health, safety, and ethics. As well as completing these parts in the proposal, it’s vital that the separate ethics form is filled in to be assessed by the Biology Department Research Ethics Committee (BDREC)! Other additional forms that need to be attached to the proposal are, for example, an equipment list, lone working, and risk assessment.

There are a fair few documents that need submitting, but they’re all important and make sure you’re ready to really begin work on this big project. You need to be prepared for a module that makes up a third of your final year grade after all!

Dissertation times

Hi guys,

How are you?

I’m a little stressed. It’s that time of the year when things are due in and I’m trying (and failing) to juggle a million balls at once. My dissertation is due in soon and although I’ve had months to complete it, I feel like I’ve left everything until the last minute! After spending the majority of the day in the library I decided to reward myself with a night out in Liverpool… but that is now not happening. I’m currently sat on my bed, pretty much ready, and I can’t bring myself to go. Self- guilt is the worst… I mean it’s bad enough when you feel guilty on behalf of someone, but self-guilt kills. It’s future you, hating present you! I feel so guilty that it’s not finished that I’ve physically stopped myself from leaving my room. WHAT IS HAPPENING?

Although I’m not going, I know when it’s finished I will have thank my past self for helping, but right now that past self (now present self) I can’t stand. When you come to uni you’ll experience fomo (fear of missing out) all the time. To be honest, normally I don’t mind missing a night out and I’m usually pretty sure before the night is here what I’m going to do. But tonight, after the Easter break, all I want to do is spend time with my friends and I can’t. So, here’s the part where I tell you that sometimes missing things isn’t the worst thing in the world… even if it feels like it at the time.

You’re probably coming up to exams and essay hand-ins, but all you want to do is spend time with your friends or family. Right, here’s the thing. You could do what you want. Spend time with friends, herm Netflix, play football… but come July/August when it’s results day you’ll wish you had spent a few more hours revising, a few more days in the library, a few more hours on that essay. Giving up can be hard at the time, but rewarding in the future. So, eventhough you really want to spend time with friends, chill with your family… go on a night out to Liverpool, you and I both know that what the right thing to do is, eventhough we don’t want to. So choose wisely.

A little chill time is fine! Don’t burn out with work, but just remember there is a difference between a few hours here and there and days wasted! It’ll be worth it in the end when you’re enrolling at EHU!

Good luck, I think we’ll both need it!

Until next time…

How have you been?


So I’m nearly half way through my final year and my dissertation has got me throwing tantrums every ten seconds (well, not really but you get what I mean). I’m sure you’re stressing over your A-levels, so I already feel we have stuff in common, right?

So, how’s things? Good? Good. What have I been up to? Well…

Dissertation- I can even go into this right now.

Social life- Where are you?! I’m kidding, it’s still here. Between living in the library and completing my course I still have managed to make time for my uni friends and chill time. Make sure you don’t overwhelm yourself with work! DONT BURN OUT PLEASE.

Work- Retail this time of year is stressful but exciting cause what’s right around the corner? CHRISTMASSSSSSSS!

Uni in general- Great. The new gym facilities are fabulous and the staff are extremely helpful. I thought it’d be standstill for equipment, but there is always something free. I’m an early bird when it comes to the gym and I’m telling you, around 8am no one is there except the instructors ahaha. The library has been 24/7 recently which has been superrrrrr for my dissertation panic. My lectures and seminars have been interesting and engaging, along with my tutors supplying extra hours for tutorial times (thank you!).

So things seem bright and fluffy at the minute… ask me in a few weeks when assignments are due and that might not be the case ahaha.

Happy studying!

Until next time..

Lecture, done. Exams, done. Second year, done.

So after a very stressful period of revising for exams and actually completing them, I am finished for the year. To say that I’m excited for summer is a complete understatement. So what are my plans? Well…

For starters, no more waking up early and stressing over assignments, exams or my dissertation. I’ve decided to take a month off completely from studying and focus on having fun with my friends and family. I plan see all of my home friends that I rarely see when I’m living in Ormskirk and travel to see my Uni friends as much as I can. I’m actually excited to read books which don’t relate to my course and go for spontaneous cocktails without feeling guilty that I’m not revising.

I want this summer to be jam-packed with stuff to do and so far I have a family holiday to Berlin and V Festival to look forward to. Between saving money from my part-time job and having as many random days out to new places, I hope that I don’t get bored too fast.

After my month off I plan to start balancing my summer fun with my dissertation planning and wider reader for next year.

So, summer is looking good and thank god it’s arrived. I’ve got a feeling I’m not the only one who needs to recharge after a hard year.

Until next time…:)

Enrolment and Dissertation Work

Well I am now a third year student, as on monday I re-enrolled via the student central ( where you can do things like update your details and submit your choices for any optional modules your course offers) part of the go edge hill portal . Whilst some third students will be nervous to have reached this stage, I’m determined to make this year my best ever year at Edge Hill university.  However it’s also scary knowing that this time two years ago I was getting ready to start Edge Hill as a fresher just you all will be now. How time flies!

My main focus for this year is my dissertation, as mentioned in a previous blog entry (here) this is the big research project I do in my final year (this year). My dissertation is on mental toughness in relation to stress experienced by sports people. Over the past few weeks I have been doing what’s known as a literature review. This is when you read up on a particular topic to find out what’s already out there in terms of theories and findings. When I am back on campus I’ll be going to see my supervisor to discuss my progress in these early stages. I shall of course be posting updates about my dissertation as the year goes on, so expect to see a few entries mentioning it.