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University of Bristol
Wellcome Trust
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PEEP for Physics & Ethics at GCSE

Using Science to support biodiversity

National Parks & Biodiversity on Paths

Stage 2: Designing the scientific investigation.

The worn path

The worn path
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On Dartmoor National Park a local Naturalist has noticed that the paths leading up to one of the Tors is becoming slightly worn and widening and there is concern that some activity is causing the loss of some local plant species (loss of biodiversity), some quite rare.  You have been asked to carry out a scientific survey to assess change in the area leading up to the Tor.

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  • A Tor is a ‘rocky outcrop’ which is a key characteristic of the Dartmoor landscape and a popular place for walkers and climbers to visit.  External Link Find out more >>
  • A similar situation appeared on Haytor in recent years, and you can read about this by
    External link following this link.

The design of the investigation:

  • The first thing you will need to do in preparing for your investigation will be to come up with an appropriate research design for your study, so that you gather data in a way that it reflects your question about what has changed on the path.
  • There are many important considerations when designing a scientific investigation, and you can look at these by going to the Science Ethics section.

Your design should:

  • Adopt a method which is appropriate to the situation.
  • It should remove any bias created by the ‘experimenter’.
  • It should result in a large enough sample of data to be representative of the real situation.
  • It should produce data which can be analysed mathematically.
  • It should be repeatable.

Your task:

  • Design an investigation to sample the plants from one side of the path to the other to see if there is any observable change in the number and type of species.
  • Your results can then be submitted to the Park Officials for consideration and possible action. 
  • At this stage you are NOT being asked to find out the possible cause of any loss of biodiversity – you are ONLY being asked to measure it.  Further research on any possible cause will only happen once you have gathered and analysed your results.  It is important to have some clear objectives and answer specific questions.


Next Stage 3:  How to carry out the investigation.


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