Meadows and robots and hay, oh my!

This week marks the end of my first year as a PhD student, my first year in Milton Keynes, my first field season and a number of other personal milestones, all set against the backdrop of a global pandemic. What a ride!

Since June I’ve hand cut 135 square metres of green hay weighing 103 kgs and sorted 41 kgs of it into grasses and broadleaved species, making 270 samples stored for analysis over the winter (find out why here). Time for a rest! I’ve mainly been out in the meadows on my own (nicely socially-distanced), but have enjoyed fantastic support from the good folks of the OU’s School of Environment, Earth and Ecosystem Sciences and the Floodplain Meadows Partnership. I’m also grateful for the support of study site owners The Parks Trust, FAI Farms and the Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust for providing access to such stunning sites.

So what have I learned?

  • Spending hours sorting green hay samples into grasses and broadleaved species is oddly therapeutic
  • A PhD project is a slippery beast that (even without a pandemic) never ends up where you thought it would
  • You can find ancient woodlands, floodplain meadows and a robot army thriving within Milton Keynes (I love the robots, they’re very cute)

Of course I’ve learned so many other things as well and discovered I have a passion for science communication. So what else was I to do but set up this blog site to host all the things that capture my enthusiasm along this journey? Here’s to the next 3 years!

Want to know what a socially-distanced meadow season looks like? Check it out…

Related content

Video: The Art of Hay Sampling
Video: Yarnton Mead and the importance of haymaking
Haymaking is critical to our heritage meadows, but is later really better?

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