The Jurassic Classroom, Lyme Regis, Dorset
PUBLISHED: 15:36 04 March 2010 | UPDATED: 16:49 20 February 2013
From 2012, Lyme Regis will be home to the Jurassic Coast Studies Centre, but you can enjoy a taster of what is to come, as Chrissie Williams reveals
Lyme Regis is a small town with a big name. Located in the centre of the Jurassic Coast, Englands only Natural World Heritage Site, the town is famous for its geology, fossils and unparalleled role in the birth of earth sciences. Building on its geological legacy, from 2012 Lyme Regis will be home to the new Jurassic Coast Studies Centre, which will host an innovative programme of courses run by the Natural History Museum, the first centre of its kind involving the museum and its scientists.
In advance of the centres launch, the Natural History Museum, the Field Studies Council (the environmental education charity) and Lyme Regis Development Trust are working together to provide a taster of whats to come. Throughout late February and March a pilot centre in Lyme Regis will offer a range of natural science courses, led by the Natural History Museums world-renowned specialists from the fields of geology, entomology, botany, mineralogy and palaeontology, who will use the Heritage Coast as their learning resource.
The Jurassic Coast is an enormous outdoor classroom covering 95 miles of stunning coastline from East Devon to Dorset, with rocks recording 185 million years of the Earths history. It provides a unique insight into the Earth Sciences as it clearly depicts a geological walk through time. It provides the perfect backdrop for a series of unique and innovative programmes of field-based learning, which will introduce students to the natural world through exploring and understanding the special character of the landscape and wildlife around the Jurassic Coast.
Helping to manage the centre and its courses is the Field Studies Council (FSC). They have ensured that the Jurassic Coast Studies Centre is designed to appeal to anyone wishing to expand their knowledge of natural sciences or further their career, whether they are beginners, collectors, science teachers, students, professionals, specialist interest groups or environmental professionals wishing to develop their career further.
The pilot centre is based at Victoria House, previously Lyme Regis train station hotel, in the heart of Lyme Regis. Alongside the mainly three- or four-day learning experiences, those who choose the residential option can enjoy luxurious en-suite accommodation, a games room, small gym and sauna suite, and the centre is just a 10-minute walk from the beach and the historic Cobb.
Most courses will take the form of a field trip along the Jurassic Coast and combine lectures, hands-on laboratory-based work with plenty of opportunity for discussion. For example, the Geology of the Jurassic Coast course builds up a picture of the geological history of the area, showing how environments changed with time and earth movements resulted in the coastline scenery we see today.
For those interested in fossil collecting, the Natural History Museums palaeontologists will teach participants the skills to develop their own fossil collection, collect data on the specimens and understand the physical conditions best suited to maintaining a collection. Plus, there will be plenty of opportunities to collect fossils from the Lower Lias near Lyme Regis and Charmouth.
Course tutor, Dr Martin Munt of the Palaeontology Department at the Natural History Museum, has been a keen fossil hunter from an early age. I always collected shells, then a friend gave me a fossil and I was hooked. Fossils record important stories about the history of life on Earth and theres no doubt that the best place in the world for this type of fieldwork is the Jurassic Coast.
Courses range from the evolution of our solar system, and the formation of Mars and the Moon to a variety of courses for botanists including an introduction to field techniques for the identification of the major groups of plants found in the UK, and how to record them.
If the pilot project is a success it will pave the way to establish a much larger centre for earth and natural science education in Lyme Regis, right at the heart of the landscape designated globally for its significant earth science value and history.
Jurassic Coast Studies Centre
For full details of courses, and how to book, contact the Field Studies Council on 0845 345 4071 or follow the link:
The field study course schedule includes:
28 February 2 March: An Introduction to Fossil Collecting, with Paul Taylor
and Zerina Johanson
2-4 March: How to Identify Fossils,
with Martin Munt and Zerina Johanson
4-7 March: An Introduction to Microfossils & Shell Sands,
with Adrian Rundle
7-12 March: Soil Invertebrates, with Paul Eggleton, Emma Sherlock
and Kelly Inward
12-14 March: Meteorites & Early Solar System, with Dr Dominik Hezel
14-17 March: Introduction to Meiofauna, with Tim Ferrero
17-20 March: Introduction to Marine Nematodes, with Tim Ferrero
20-23 March: Geology of Jurassic Coast, with Andy Fleet
and Martin Munt
23-26 March: Parasitic Worms
& Crustaceans, with Geoff Boxshall and Eileen Harris
26-29 March: British Bryozoans, with Piotr Kuklinski
29-31 March: Identification of British Plants,
with Fred Rumsey
Non-residential from 158-350
Course fees include:
Up to 10 hours tuition a day. Full-board accommodation includes a cooked breakfast, picnic lunch, homemade cakes and evening meal and use of centre resources