Ecology of Port Meadow

Course details

From £205.00
10 CATS points

24 Apr 2019 - 26 Jun 2019
Day of week

Ecology of Port Meadow


In this course we will explore the intricate interconnections between living and non-living things that create and shape grassland ecosystems. Meadows are a familiar sight in Britain and much of Europe, but how do they compare to the prairies of North America or Eurasian steppes?

Each week we explore different aspects of meadow ecology, alternating between classroom and field experience in Port Meadow. Students will learn how to identify some of the wildlife inhabiting Port Meadow, and we will explore aspects of local history still evident in the makeup of the plain.

Students will have the opportunity to learn ecological techniques in the field, and gain hands-on experience in natural history documentation.

Five sessions in this course will involve trips to Port Meadow to learn ecological techniques and natural history in the field. Students should come to field sessions equipped with a pencil, notebook and a ruler. A hand lens or binoculars are helpful but not mandatory. Sturdy footwear and waterproof clothing should be worn on field days. Wildlife identification guides are helpful. A bottle of water for hydration is recommended.

Programme details

Term starts: 24th April

Week 1: Introduction to meadow ecology.

Week 2: Trip to Port Meadow-scoping trip.

Week 3: Phenology of spring.

Week 4: Trip to Port Meadow-phenology measurements.

Week 5: Biodiversity in grassland ecosystems.

Week 6: Trip to Port Meadow - assessing biodiversity.

Week 7: Food webs.

Week 8: Trip to Port Meadow - who eats whom.

Week 9: Natural history, local history, and their significance.

Week 10: Trip to Port Meadow - history.

Background Reading;
John Cloudsley-Thompson., Ecology. London : Teach Yourself. 1998

Feltwell, John., Meadows : a history and natural history. Stroud : Sutton. 1992

Paul Sterry., Complete British wildlife. Collins. 1997


If you are planning to purchase books, remember that courses with too few students enrolled will be cancelled. The Department accepts no responsibility for books bought in anticipation of a course.

If you have enrolled on a course starting in the autumn, you can become a borrowing member of the Rewley House library from 1st September and we will try to ensure that as many titles as possible are available in the Library by the start of each term. If you are enrolled on a course starting in other terms, you can become a borrowing member once the previous term has ended.

Recommended reading

All weekly class students may become borrowing members of the Rewley House Continuing Education Library for the duration of their course. Prospective students whose courses have not yet started are welcome to use the Library for reference. More information can be found on the Library website.

There is a Guide for Weekly Class students which will give you further information. 

Availability of titles on the reading list (below) can be checked on SOLO, the library catalogue.

Recommended Reading List


Students who register for CATS points will receive a Record of CATS points on successful completion of their course assessment.

To earn credit (CATS points) you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee per course. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online.

Coursework is an integral part of all weekly classes and everyone enrolled will be expected to do coursework in order to benefit fully from the course. Only those who have registered for credit will be awarded CATS points for completing work at the required standard.

Students who do not register for CATS points during the enrolment process can either register for CATS points prior to the start of their course or retrospectively from between January 1st and July 31st after the current academic year has been completed. If you are enrolled on the Certificate of Higher Education you need to indicate this on the enrolment form but there is no additional registration fee.


Course Fee: £205.00
Take this course for CATS points: £10.00


Dr Ada Grabowska-Zhang

Ada is an ecologist and has researched behavioural ecology and conservation - and a keen vegetable gardener. She is a lecturer in Biological Sciences at Brasenose College and a tutor in the Department of Zoology, University of Oxford.

Course aims

To explore different aspects of meadow ecology with specific reference to Port Meadow. To gain skills in species identification in a local context and learn about the natural history of place.

Course Objectives:

1. To understand the biological processes involved in the creation and maintenance of grassland ecosystems;

2. To understand how these principles apply to the case study of Port Meadow;

3. To learn species identification and basic ecological techniques in the field.

Teaching methods

The course objectives will be taught via lectures, first-hand experience in the field, and interactive sessions in small groups. Each weekly class will consist of one or two lectures (max 30 minutes each) followed by, or interspersed with discussion sessions.Field sessions will involve structured and semi-structured activities on topics parallel to those covered in class.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course students will be expected to:

1. Be familiar with the distinct features of meadow ecosystems and the ecological forces driving them;
2. To be able to identify and describe some of the common species of wildlife that occur in Port meadow;
3. Appreciate how the different local and natural history events have shape the face of Port Meadow.

Assessment methods

The assessment will consist of either A: a portfolio of natural history notes and records covering 4 separate topics (and adding up to the equivalent of 1500 words), or B: a short essay of about 1500 words exploring one of the topics covered in the course in a little more depth. The essay can cover and discuss the implications of some of the results obtained in field work. Feedback on essay draft will be provided by the tutor.

Students must submit a completed Declaration of Authorship form at the end of term when submitting your final piece of work. CATS points cannot be awarded without the aforementioned form.


To earn credit (CATS points) for your course you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee for each course you enrol on. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online.

Please use the 'Book' or 'Apply' button on this page. Alternatively, please complete an application form.

Level and demands

Most of the Department's weekly classes have 10 or 20 CATS points assigned to them. 10 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of ten 2-hour sessions. 20 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of twenty 2-hour sessions. It is expected that, for every 2 hours of tuition you are given, you will engage in eight hours of private study.

Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS)