We have a number of talks coming up about our expeditions, register for a talk by clicking here!

New Zealand - Nature Wilderness Field Course

One week field course in the Makarora Valley, South Island, New Zealand

The New Zealand field ecology and data analysis course will be based in the Makarora Valley, and 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 itself will be 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.

During the course, students will be camping in individual tents to ensure that the group are socially distanced.

Contact us to Find Out More

Or attend one of our talks by registering with one of the links below:

Tuesday 6th April7pm (NZST)Register here!
Thursday 15th April7pm (NZST)Register here!
Tuesday 20th April7pm (NZST)Register here!


  • Work to protect threatened species in one of the most diverse habitats for indigenous biodiversity value in New Zealand
  • 7th Jan - 13th Jan 2022
  • 13th Jan - 19th Jan 2022
  • Field Course Booklet

Reserve your place


The course consists of three main parts:

  • 1. Learning ecology survey techniques

    – half 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
  • 2. Learning how to analyse in R and write up a large data set as a scientific paper for publication

    – the other half of the time will be spent working on their laptops with online tuition from a group of specialist scientists.

    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.

  • 3. Learning about how to develop a career in conservation biology or wildlife film making


    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.


    Working with Aspiring Biodiversity Trust:

    All images have been provided by Aspiring Biodiversity Trust.

Day to Day Tasks

Each day there will be tasks the students need to complete:

  • Learning how the selected data set were gathered, developing a research question that can be asked and writing an introduction to the paper

  • Learning how to code in R (the open source data analysis package) and graphing some of the data needed to analyse the research question

  • Learning how to use basis statistical tests in R to analyse the data

  • Learning how to write up the discussion, conclusions and bibliography of the proposed paper.

Additional Information

    •  Students over 16 years of age may be able to use the course for their Gold Duke of Edinburgh residential requirements.
    • Attend lectures/workshops on biodiversity and conservation
    • Explore unique flora and fauna
    • Learn survey methods for vegetation plots and birds with a focus on threatened species
    • Learning how to analyse in R and write up a large data set as a scientific paper for publication
    • Learning about how to develop a career in conservation biology or wildlife film making
  • The cost for the week including all food, accommodation, participation in each of the field surveys, tuition, lectures and access to the scientists and professional field ecologists is £575.

    For bookings, please contact eleanor.field@opwall.com. There are maximum numbers on each work experience to ensure the students have the level of academic and field support needed and places will be allocated on a first come first served basis.

    The transfers at the start and finish of the course, to and from Queenstown airport to the site are charged at £60 per person.

    School groups must be accompanied by a teacher or parent and there is a free place provided on the course (including accommodation and food) for the chaperone for each group of 8 students.

Reserve your place

Field Course Resources

Health & Safety

Risk is inherent in everything that we do in life. Without accepting and understanding these risks, we would not be able to do anything at all.

The first concern of all activities undertaken as part of Operation Wallacea expeditions is to gain an understanding of the environments we will be working in, and from this to reduce risk to health and safety as far as is possible.

After an independent assessment Operation Wallacea has been awarded the Learning Outside the Classroom badge for safety and quality.

You can find general information about Opwall’s approach to Health and Safety in the about us section here

Travel Information

Please read each of the sections below carefully. They provide important information about your field course in the Makarora Valley. Should you require further assistance please do not hesitate to contact your nearest Operation Wallacea office.

Travelling to and from the expedition


The course attendees will meet at 3:30PM on your course start date in Queenstown airport, for a 4PM departure.


The groups will be transferred to Queenstown airport on the morning of your course end date and return flights can be booked from 12pm.

Internal Travel

Groups will be met at Queenstown airport and transferred by coach to the site (approx. 3hrs).

Additional Nights

As part of the internal travel package it is possible to arrange additional nights in Queenstown before and after your field course, and the relevant airport transfers. However, this will be at an additional cost – please contact us for more details.


For all COVID-19 information please visit this page.

Carbon Offsetting

By joining an Operation Wallacea expedition you are contributing directly towards the study and protection of threatened biodiversity, bringing significant financial benefits to small local communities, and working towards protecting valuable carbon stocks from deforestation. We are extremely proud of the impact we and our volunteers have had over the past two decades, creating a significant benefit to the environment.

However, we want to do more. Specifically, we want to make Operation Wallacea completely carbon neutral. As an organisation we offsetting our own emissions from staff travel (both road and air) and from running our offices. But we also want to encourage all our participants to offset, at the very least, the carbon emissions from their own international flights – and ideally more. To do this we will be supporting the Wallacea Reforestation Initiative in partnership with our sister charity the Wallacea Trust (UK Charity 1078362), and you can read more about this exciting project here that takes a new approach to tropical reforestation that benefits not only climate, but biodiversity and livelihoods too.

For more information on Opwall’s Carbon Offsetting click here

How to Calculate Your Donation Amount

Once booked and we’ve received your flight details, you’ll receive an email from us with a recommended donation amount, where we take the exact flight routes you’ve booked on to for your expedition, and run them through the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) carbon calculator. This calculator can be found here and the method used is found here. This gives us the total estimated amount of carbon your flights will emit into the atmosphere, and we assign a value of $10 USD (or £7.69 GBP) per ton of carbon. We only used the flights that we’re aware of, so if you have any more you may want to up the donation!

To calculate your carbon footprint you can use one of the many carbon calculators on line such as My ClimateTreedomInternational Student Carbon Footprint Challenge and many others. If you’re happy with an estimate, a £15 donation will cover the carbon produced by the flights in more than 95% of cases.

To donate, click the button below.

Make a donation using Virgin Money Giving


Gear List

Makarora Valley – gear list 

Recommended Items

Please note that remote rural property with no shops nearby; you must bring everything you need for the week with you.

Main bag – You will need a large bag or backpack; around 40-50 litre capacity. You need to be able to carry it comfortably for short distances (such as, from the bus to your tent). A waterproof liner inside the bag is a good idea – a large rubbish bag will suffice.

Day pack – Needed for carrying water, paper, pens, binoculars, cameras, etc during surveys. A rain cover is a recommended optional extra.

Sleeping bag – A warm sleeping bag is recommended – the temperature in April is averages 9oC overnight.

Sleeping mat and pillow – a compact inflatable camping mattress or yoga mat and small pillow.

Water bottle and/or hydration pack  – A combination of leak-proof drink bottles or bladder type hydration packs (for example, CamelBak) with a total 2L capacity.

Head torch – You will need a head torch for night surveys and walking around the site in the evening. It is recommended to use a head torch that has a rechargeable lithium battery rather than single use batteries.

Spare batteries and chargers –  For head torch, camera, phone, etc. Batteries are not available to buy on site. It is recommended to use rechargeable batteries where possible. If you are planning on bringing an external power bank, these cannot be put in your checked luggage.

Waterproof jacket – Showers or rain is possible at this time of year so bring a rain jacket.

Alarm clock – you can use your phone or watch to ensure you wake you up for your early morning surveys.

Travel towel – A light travel towel.

Notebook and pencils/pens – Essential.

Laptop computer – Essential. You will need this to complete the statistics section of the course.


Soap and shampoo – Please only bring biodegradable soaps to minimise impact on the environment.

Insect repellent – Natural insect repellents are preferred; non-DEET repellent is essential for handling wildlife.

Sunscreen – Minimum SPF 30 is recommended.

Menstrual pads/tampons – Please bring a supply even if you do not expect to use them.

Hand sanitiser – Just a small bottle. Please use prior to meal time.


You should bring clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty!

Hiking boots – should be comfortable (worn in). A spare pair of lightweight closed shoes such as sneakers may be helpful in case feet get wet during river surveys. Closed shoes must be worn at all times on site except when showering.

Rubber boots – will be handy for river surveys.

Thongs –  for use in the shower.

Long baggy trousers/shorts – Any comfortable long pants (not leggings); jeans, work pants, cargos, or hiking pants are all good options. 2-3 pairs. A pair of shorts or zip offs will be useful for river surveys.

T-shirts and/or shirts – Pack 4-6. A mixture of short sleeved and long sleeved will ensure you are prepared for different temperatures (night and day surveys). Button up shirts are also fine if you prefer.

Fleece top – It will be cool in the mornings and evenings (~90C) so pack a jumper to make sure you are warm enough.

Socks – Enough for one week. Long socks are more comfortable with hiking and rubber boots.

Underwear – Enough for one week.

Hat and sunglasses – A broad-brimmed hat is recommended for adequate sun protection. A style you can pack into your day bag easily is ideal.

Pyjamas – enough for 1 week.

 Medical Kit

Although every expedition will have its own medical supplies and First Aid trained staff on site, you should carry your own personal medical kit. You MUST bring all prescription medications you need. Other suggested items are:

  • Antihistamine tablets
  • Antihistamine/hydro-cortisone cream
  • Paracetamol (Panadol) and/or ibuprofen (Nurofen)
  • Band-aids
  • Menstrual supplies (pads, tampons, painkillers)
  • Prescription medications – essential

Optional Extras

Binoculars – Useful for spotting waterbirds and other wildlife; 8 x 40 are the best to bring.

Camera – You will have lots of opportunities to take photos of the site and wildlife. Make sure you bring a suitable case (waterproof is ideal) and adequate batteries and/or charger. Please do not bring a drone.

Entertainment – You might like to bring cards, games, books, etc for travelling to the site and evening down time.

Snacks – There will not be any opportunity to buy anything during the week, so it is recommended to bring your favourite snacks with you.

While mobile phones will be useful for alarms and photo taking, it is expected that they will be in flight mode during learning sessions.

Wallace House, Old Bolingbroke, Spilsby, Lincolnshire PE23 4EX, UK
| +44 (0) 1790 763194 | info@opwall.com