SRUC Aberdeen Students Learn from Conservation Field Trip to Mar Lodge Estate

Published Wednesday, 8th June 2016 in Study at SRUC news

Students in Mar Lodge ballroom with Stags heads shot in the Victorian era.

Countryside Management students at SRUC Aberdeen Campus have been learning outside the classroom during a recent field trip to the local Mar Lodge Estate near Braemar.

The group of 11 students carried out conservation work and learned about how the estate is managed over the course of the weekend led by a ranger Kim Neilson - who is a past MSc Countryside Management student and who now works for the National Trust for Scotland.

Gus Routledge, one of the students on the trip, said: “Mar Lodge is a huge estate covering 7% of the Cairngorms National Park. Being such a diverse area it was a great place for the students to relate what we have learned during the first year of our course to a real land use situation.”

On arrival the group were taken on a walk up the hillside to get a view of the estate and the impact of the recent flooding. On Saturday the group were put to work on some of the conservation projects going on at the estate to reinstate some of the ancient Caledonian pine forests – ring barking some of the Scots Pines in an old forestry plantation.

Ring barking is where a ring of bark is removed around the tree, which effectively kills it. Killing trees in a ‘halo’ around one tree will give the centre tree a far greater chance of growing large and old.

Gus added: “The aim of ring barking is to give older mature trees some space, and also allowing younger trees the chance to grow up to replace the mature Scots Pines once they die. In total our group ring barked 146 trees. This dead tree habitat will support species like woodpeckers.”

Another highlight of the field trip included wildlife spotting – with adder, hen harrier, black grouse seen on the hills and pine marten, red squirrel and tawny owl caught on camera traps behind the lodge, probably the same animals that starred in BBC’s Winter Watch!

Nicky Penford, lecturer in Countryside Management, said: “The students worked hard over the weekend but were rewarded by working in some of the most spectacular scenery in Scotland. They could see for themselves the complexities of estate management, including the problems of deer control, but contributed to reducing the deer population by having venison for dinner!”

Students at work ring barking Scots pine.

Photo captions:

1. Students in Mar Lodge ballroom with Stags heads shot in the Victorian era.

2. Students at work ring barking Scots pine.

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