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New Zealand Science Teacher

Science Education & Society

EcoBlitz continues to inspire

Students and scientists involved with last year’s Nina Valley EcoBlitz are planning their next move.

lincoln 1 smallLeft: Year 12 student Flynn Maslin-Gilmore, of Ao Tawhiti Unlimited Discovery School, checks a specimen under the microscope.

There’s never been a more important time to promote a passion for preserving the natural world, says Lincoln University senior ecology lecturer Dr Tim Curran.

“A great way to address the disconnect between human society and nature is to get people out surveying biodiversity alongside scientists,” he says.

And that’s exactly what EcoBlitz, an environmental education programme he leads, does. You might have seen a recent article in New Zealand Teacher: Blitzing for biodiversity.

More than 170 high school students from 21 South Island schools took a trip to the Nina Valley, near Lewis Pass, in March last year, accompanied by scientists and students from Lincoln University and many other research organisations.

On Thursday, 12 March , a workshop was held to help students set about identifying the range of plant, insect, bird, reptile and mammal species.

Senior ecology lecturer Dr Jon Sullivan, who helped to organise the workshops and the EcoBlitz, says Lincoln University staff were extremely impressed with the level of keenness and curiosity shown by the students who came along last week.  

“They all got stuck in identifying invertebrates, plants and mammal footprints. At this stage of the identification process, there are several unusual specimens which will be new to science, which is particularly exciting,” says Dr Sullivan.

lincoln 2 smallAbove: Listening to instructions about how to collate some of the finds are (from left) Willow Vernal, Year 12, of Hurunui College; Kazia Tini, Year 12, of Lincoln High School; Tim Logan, Year 13, of Darfield High School; Anna Ou, Year 13, of Craighead School; and Nichapat Daosodsai, Year 12, of Craighead School. 

“The students also enjoyed a hotly-contested bird quiz, which involved them getting into groups and identifying bird species based on photos and recorded sounds.”

lincoln 3 smallLeft: A group of students immerse themselves in the biodiversity surveying experience. Pictured are (from left) year 10 students Isaiah Gillett, and Harriet Kingdon, both of Hillview Christian School; Miriam Clark, year 11, of Hurunui College; and Racheal Ellis, year 13, of Craighead School.

Dr Curran says perhaps the most impressive part of the day occurred during the wrap-up, when students discussed how to use the data collected during the EcoBlitz to guide conservation efforts for biodiversity in the Nina Valley.

The students brainstormed ideas such as how to better inform the broader public on biodiversity issues, and improved pest control management.

And it’s hoped another EcoBlitz, or a similar event, will take place soon. “We have funding from the Waikato River Authority to conduct two EcoBlitzes – one this year and one in 2017 – at St Peter’s Cambridge on their dairy farm on the Waikato River,” says Dr Curran.

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