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  • Overview
  • Objectives
  • Skills you gain
  • Costs to Consider
  • Site Conditions

Options include:

6 day dates available:

  • 7 January 2022 – 13 January 2022
  • 13 January 2022 – 19 January 2022

Makarora Valley Wildlife Field Course Experience

This course is based in the Makarora Valley, an area comprising a suite of unique habitats giving rise to significant indigenous biodiversity value.

The iconic braided river is an important breeding habitat for wrybill (the only bird in the world with a bill that bends to the right), black-fronted tern, black-billed gull (rarest gull in the world), and many more. The kaka and long-tailed bat utilise the botanically rich beech/podocarp forest while the pristine upper river catchments provide habitat for whio (blue duck). The alpine habitat of the Southern Alps Kā Tiritiri o te Moana is also core territory for rock wren and kea (the only alpine parrot).

The course presents the opportunity for participants to gain practical conservation experience and knowledge in relevance to the curriculum but also with the ability to complete internally assessed units from NCEA Biology Levels 2 and 3 while on site. This will enrich the learning experience for students at this stage while improving the ability to pursue successful careers in conservation both in New Zealand and overseas.

The course itself is led in conjunction with the Aspiring Biodiversity Trust and their “Threatened Species Project From Ridge to River” – to find out more, please visit https://aspiringbiodiversity.co.nz/. This project is partly located within the Tititea Mt Aspiring National Park and a UNESCO World Heritage Area.

All photos have been provided by Aspiring Biodiversity Trust.

Makarora Valley Field Course Objectives

The Makarora Valley course is designed to complement the matrices for NCEA Biology (adaptation, evolutionary processes, speciation & ecological communities) and Geography (natural processes, research methodologies & spatial analysis) at Level 2 and 3. There is also the opportunity to use the course as part of internal assessments for these curricula. The role and importance of the local community is prioritized and with regards to all activities carried out.

The course is split into three parts:

  1. Learning Ecology Survey Techniques

Half of the time will be spent in the field working with experienced field naturalists and learning the following techniques:

  • Quadrat surveys for analysing vegetation community structure
  • Possum and ungulate detection
  • Bird mist netting and ringing
  • Standardised bird point counts and transects
  • Braided river ecology and surveys
  • Predator control methods to maintain native fauna

These activities reflect the focus of students’ high school studies on developing scientific enquiry skills and the ability to design and carry out research methods.

  1. Developing skills in research methods and scientific reporting

Students will work together in small groups (2 -3 students) on one of the following data sets: reef fish communities, coral reef structure, cloud forest bird communities, spider monkey behaviour or large mammal distribution in a South African reserve. Over the week the objective will be for the group to write up a paper answering a research question they have devised based on the data sets. Each group will present their final paper by the end of the course.

This enables students to gain in-depth knowledge of topics at Levels 2 and 3 in Biology, Environmental Science and Geography, whilst also developing essential skills in quantitative data analysis and reporting. Through supervised small group work, students will develop their capacity to work effective within a team and practice essential presentation skills.

  1. Learning about how to develop a career in environmental science or conservation biology

In the evenings there will be presentations from different academics and professional field ecologists explaining about the conservation techniques being used and wildlife in the area together with upcoming opportunities for careers in wildlife conservation in New Zealand.

  • Attend lectures and workshops on indigenous biodiversity and conservation
  • In-depth experience and knowledge of key topics in Level 2 and 3 biology, environmental science and geography
  • Explore unique flora and fauna
  • Learn survey methods with a focus on threatened species
  • Learn first-hand the most pressing issues in New Zealand conservation
  • Practise essential skills relating to scientific writing
  • Gain essential guidance in developing your career
  • Opwall fee – £595 (GBP) – £150 (GBP) deposit
  • Cost of flights to Queenstown airport
  • Cost of transfers between Queenstown airport and the field site. This costs £60 GBP per person.


The climate in the Makarora Valley is changeable at this time of year. It is best to prepare for a variety of weathers as some weeks in January may be wet. Nights can get chilly when camping so it is best to bring warm clothes for nighttime.

Fitness Level Required

Moderate. Routes and transects aren’t very long but this is an active course where you can expect to be on your feet every day and walking reasonable distances. Terrain is hilly in places.

Creature Comforts

Facilities are relatively basic. Students sleep in tents at this site but there are flushing toilets and running showers available. There is occasional phone signal and wifi.

Want to get involved with this project?


Want to get involved with this project?

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