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Sample Location

You're planning a field investigation. You've got your equipment and done your research, so now it's time to decide where you will be sampling the natural environment. Can you imagine trying to count all the plants in a habitat? Thankfully, sampling makes this easier. Instead of counting every single plant, you take a representative sample of the population, which accurately…

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# Sample Location

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You're planning a field investigation. You've got your equipment and done your research, so now it's time to decide where you will be sampling the natural environment. Can you imagine trying to count all the plants in a habitat? Thankfully, sampling makes this easier. Instead of counting every single plant, you take a representative sample of the population, which accurately displays the variety of species present.

## Sample Location: Meaning

Before we begin, let's recap sampling. Get ready for plenty of definitions!

Sampling is the process of collecting data to obtain information about a population.

A population is a group of individuals of the same species living in the same area.

The aim of sampling is to select a sample that is representative of the population.

If a sample is representative, the relevant characteristics of the sample match the characteristics of the overall population.

Before starting any kind of sampling activity, it's important to know your target species. Let's take humans for example. The sex ratio in humans is approximately one-to-one. To have a representative sample, the ratio of males to females should be roughly equal.

Alternatively, a species of flower has two morphs: one with blue petals and one with yellow petals. 70% of the population have blue petals and the remaining 30% have yellow petals. A representative sample should have an appropriate ratio of the two morphs.

Now that we've recapped sampling, the concept of sample location is straightforward. It's the place that an environmental sample was obtained.

## Importance of Sample Location

Good environmental samples should be representative and unbiased.

Sampling bias occurs when some members of a population are systematically more likely to be selected than others.

It's essential for scientists to avoid bias during their research. Otherwise, their data may not be objective or reliable. All scientific work is peer-reviewed to check for bias and other mistakes.

Imagine that you are sampling buttercups in a field. There's a large cluster of buttercups in the middle of the field, so you decide to take a sample there. This is an example of biased sampling – you will likely end up with an inaccurate result.

Not all bias is intentional.

During your A-Levels, you will carry out environmental sampling. How you choose your sampling location is important. Your samples should be representative of the population and unbiased.

## Types of Sample Location

There are two types of technique used to determine sampling location: random and systematic.

In random sampling, every member of the population is equally likely to be included in a sample. Random sample sites can be determined using a number generator, for example.

In systematic sampling, samples are taken at fixed, regular intervals. Typically, the area of study is divided into a grid and samples are taken in a regular pattern.

Let's compare the two types of sampling technique.

• Systematic sampling is easier and quicker to execute than random sampling. However, it will produce skewed results if the data set exhibits patterns.

• Random sampling is more difficult to execute, so it is best suited for smaller data sets. It's also likely to produce more representative results.

### Transects for Environmental Gradients

Transects are a tool used for systematic sampling in a study site that experiences an environmental gradient.

An environmental gradient is a change in abiotic (non-living) factors through space.

Sand dunes are a common example of a habitat that experiences an environmental gradient.

A transect is a line placed across a habitat. It can be as simple as a piece of spring.

There are two kinds of transects: line and belt.

• Line transects are one-dimensional transects. Every individual who touches the line is identified and counted.

• Belt transects use a rectangular area instead of a line. They supply more data than a line transect, but are more time-consuming to use.

Either kind of transect can be continuous or interrupted.

• Continuous transects record every individual that touches the transect. They provide a high level of detail, but are very time-consuming to use. As a result, they're only suitable for short distances.

• Interrupted transects record individuals at regular intervals. Using an interrupted transect is much quicker, but doesn't provide as much detail as a continuous transect.

## Characteristics of Sample Locations

Apart from sampling technique, what other factors need to be considered when choosing sample locations?

Good sample locations need to be accessible (able to be reached or entered). When choosing sample locations, avoid private land and be aware of geographical constraints, such as vertical drops or roads passing through the study site.

Fig. 2 - Common land or school property is accessible for sampling. Unsplash

It's also important to consider safety when choosing sample locations. Some methods of minimising risk when sampling include:

• Avoiding sampling in or near deep water.

• Being aware of your surroundings at all times.

• Staying in groups.

• Avoiding sampling during adverse weather conditions.

• Wearing suitable clothing and footwear.

## Describing Sample Locations

There are two methods of describing a sample location: relative and absolute.

### Relative Location

Relative location is a description of how a place is related to other places.

For example, the Angel of the North is 392 kilometres northwest of the Tower of London. It's also 16 kilometres southwest of Newcastle International Airport.

Relative location can help analyse how two places are connected by distance, culture, or biodiversity.

### Absolute Location

Absolute location is a place's exact position on Earth.

Usually, absolute location is given in terms of latitude and longitude.

For example, the absolute location of the Angel of the North is 54.9141° N, 1.5895° W.

## Examples of Sample Locations

You will carry out environmental sampling during your A-Level course. You need to be aware of suitability, accessibility, and safety before selecting sample locations.

Are the following locations suitable for your A-Level sampling?

Location 1: School Playing Field

Location 2: Shallow Rock Pool

Location 3: Open Ocean

Location 4: Private Garden

Location 5: Local Woodland

Location 6: Canadian Forest

Location 7: Motorway

Location 8: Park

1. Suitable for sampling

2. Suitable for sampling

3. ✖ Not suitable for sampling – accessibility and safety concerns

4. Not suitable for sampling – accessibility concerns

5. Suitable for sampling

6. Not suitable for sampling – accessibility concerns

7. Not suitable for sampling – safety concerns

8. ✔ Suitable for sampling

I hope that this article has explained sample location to you. Sample location is the place that an environmental sample was obtained. Sampling techniques, such as random and systematic sampling, make sure that your sample location is unbiased and representative of the population. Furthermore, sample locations should be accessible and safe.

## Sample Location - Key takeaways

• Sampling is the process of collecting data to obtain information about a population. Good samples should be representative and unbiased.
• To limit bias, researchers use sampling techniques to find appropriate sampling locations.
• In random sampling, every member of the population has an equal chance of being sampled. This technique is best suited for smaller data sets, but it's more likely to be representative.
• In systematic sampling, samples are taken at fixed regular intervals. This technique is easier, but may produce skewed results if the data set exhibits patterns.
• Transects are used in habitats that experience an environmental gradient. There are two kinds of transects: line and belt. Transects can be continuous or interrupted.
• Good sample locations need to be accessible and safe.

1. Free Map Tool, Map Showing the Distance Between Angel Of The North, Durham Road and Newcastle International Airport, UK, 2022

2. Free Map Tool, Map Showing the Distance Between Angel Of The North, Durham Road and Tower of London, London, 2022

3. Google Maps, Angel of the North, 2022

## Frequently Asked Questions about Sample Location

Sample location is the place where an environmental sample was taken.

Sampling locations need to be unbiased, representative, accessible and safe.

A park or school playing field is an example of a safe and accessible sample location.

Sample locations need to be accessible and safe.

A t-test can be used to compare data from two different locations.

## Sample Location Quiz - Teste dein Wissen

Question

Define sampling.

Sampling is the process of collecting data to obtain information about a population.

Show question

Question

A sample should be representative of the population. What does this mean?

In a representative sample, the relevant characteristics of the sample match the characteristics of the overall population.

Show question

Question

Define sample location.

Sample location is the place that an environmental sample was obtained.

Show question

Question

What is sampling bias?

Sampling bias occurs when some members of a population are systematically more likely to be selected than others.

Show question

Question

Define relative location.

Relative location is a description of how a place is related to other places.

Show question

Question

What is random sampling?

Random sampling is a sampling technique where every member of the population is equally likely to be included in a sample.

Show question

Question

What is systematic sampling?

Systematic sampling is a sampling technique where samples are taken at fixed regular intervals.

Show question

Question

Which sampling technique is suitable for data that exhibits a pattern?

Random sampling

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Question

What is an environmental transect?

An environmental gradient is a change in abiotic (non-living) factors through space.

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Question

Define a transect.

A transect is a line placed across a habitat.

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Question

What kind of transect supplies more data, but is more time-consuming to use?

Belt transect

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Question

Define absolute location.

Absolute location is a place's exact position on Earth.

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Question

What are some accessibility problems associated with sampling locations?

Accessibility problems include private land and geographical constraints.

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Question

How can risk be minimised during sampling?

Staying in groups

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Question

What sampling technique is quicker and easier?

Systematic sampling

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