02 May 2013

Field tripping coast to coast

Mid-semester break was field trip season for our undergraduate ecology classes this year. Our second year biological diversity course, Ecol202, did their annual three day biodiversity coast-to-coast between Lincoln and Punakaiki. Our third year applied ecology and conservation course, Ecol302, did their annual three day trip down to Glentanner on the shores of Lake Pukaki beneath mighty Mount Cook/Aoraki.

Since last year's field trip season, NatureWatch NZ was launched. NatureWatch NZ is a website for online sharing of observations of nature. We've been making use of it in some of our assignments this year (see my blog post here on using it for our second year nature journal assignments). This way, all the observations that students make in their assignments don't go into spreadsheets that get lost or buried in staff hard-drives but instead become part of a long-term, public archive of New Zealand nature. That's a good thing.

This year, our Ecol202 class has been entering all of their field trip data directly onto NatureWatch NZ. That includes all shrub and tree species in their group 10 m by 10 m plant plots, all the birds they saw and heard in their five minute bird counts, and all the types of stream invertebrate they found in their stream kick sampling. The online community of NatureWatch NZ has helped us get our identifications correct, for all the observations with attached photos.
Noting down the species you find can yield some surprises. In last year's Ecol302 field trip, we found a barberry species in Geraldine's Talbot Bush that had not been recorded wild in New Zealand before (here's the observation now on NatureWatch NZ). This year's Ecol302 surprise find was the pretty little native plant, the tarn speedwell Parahebe canescens in full flower in Tekapo Scientific Reserve.

You can see all of the species we saw on our field trips this year in the NatureWatch NZ projects for each course. Click the "More..." button to see a live feed from NatureWatch NZ of the latest observations in those projects.
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