Archives For Students

It’s National Volunteer Week and we’re honouring the selfless souls who volunteer for conservation—highlighting the diversity of conservation volunteers and volunteer opportunities around New Zealand.

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A hands-on outdoors programme is helping to equip future conservation leaders in the Central North Island.

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By Sarah Ensor, Partnerships Ranger in Rangiora

Last month 176 senior students from 23 secondary schools worked alongside 57 scientists/taxonomists, 24 university students, 26 teachers and 16 helpers to discover and document species in the Nina Valley, Lewis Pass.

The Nina Valley Ecoblitz team. Photo: Sonny Whitelaw.

Most of the team on the last day

The idea for an ‘Ecoblitz’ in the Nina Valley started almost 18 months ago with Tim Kelly, a teacher at Hurunui College. Tim approached some like-minded people and a group was formed. This group comprised representatives from Hurunui College, Lincoln University, DOC, Hurunui District Council and specialist volunteers.

Over $33,000 of sponsorship was raised to cover all the costs of the event and this meant that the event was accessible to all students, regardless of their financial circumstances.

Students conducting plant identification. Photo: Steve Attwood.

Students conducting plant identification

The weekend offered students 119 field activities and workshops, each lead by an expert scientist. Participants worked side-by-side to discover and document native species of Nina Valley in a methodological and educational manner.

Eripatus. Photo: Bryce McQuillan.

Some excellent professional photographers covered the event and photographed species for ID

The term ‘Ecoblitz’ was coined to reflect the detailed research into the ecology of the forest, shrub, grasslands and waterways around the Boyle River/Nina Valley. 17 sites in these different habitats sites were selected, based on surveys conducted previously by Lincoln University, and thus provided a baseline on which to compare data and repeat in future years.

Lincoln University is collating all the data which will be sent to students, this includes researching an unidentified sample that may even be a new species!

Students at the campsite. Photo: Steve Attwood.

Students at the campsite

You can find out more information about the event on the Nina Valley Ecoblitz website.

A fresh look at the humble backcountry hut by Year 12 students at Rangiora High School has brought forward all kinds of new ideas and concepts for consideration.

Rangiora student Adam Mitchelmore chats to Jeff Dalley.

Rangiora student Adam Mitchelmore chats to Jeff Dalley

Throughout 2013 DOC Ranger, Jeff Dalley, has been working with visual communications and design students in Rangiora to design a new hut for the St James Cycle Trail, a 64 kilometre track through stunning scenery of mountain peaks, crystal clear rivers, high-country lakes, alpine meadows, sub-alpine beech forest, and expansive grassy river flats.

A prescriptive Standard Operating Procedure for hut design in the backcountry means new ideas and designs are rarely considered, but the project at Rangiora High School was a great way to think of new and creative approaches to building these shelters.

Callum Bradbury shows Jeff his Computer-Aided Design drawing.

Callum Bradbury shows Jeff his Computer-Aided Design drawing

The idea was the brainchild of teacher, Carey Prebble, who contacted DOC. Fortuitously a new hut was being considered and DOC staff were keen to collaborate.

The students were given a very specific and comprehensive design brief which would have been exactly what would have been provided to any architect.

The hut design, for 12 people and their bikes, and had to cater to various constraints, including cost, materials, weight and construction complexity.

A final hut design poster.

One student’s final hut design poster

Many of the students had fond memories of staying in DOC huts and wanted to ensure their designs would be attractive and comfortable for future visitors.

DOC staff were impressed with the students’ work, they were truly creative and many of the innovations designed by the students could be immediately incorporated in any final design.

Our photo of the week is in celebration of National Volunteer Week, which runs from the 16-22 June. The theme for 2013 is “He tāngata, He tāngata, He tāngata! It is people, it is people, it is people”.

EcoQuest Education Foundation and Kaiaua Primary School recently got together with local DOC ranger Stephen Benham to do some planting at the newly purchased DOC Rangipo Scenic Reserve. It was a great day for both our university aged students and the primary school kids to get out, volunteer and contribute to conservation in our local area.

Young boy planting with a DOC ranger.

It’s great to see people of all ages getting involved in conservation and working with DOC. Conservation volunteers make an important contribution to conservation in New Zealand and we’d like to thank all our volunteers for their help.


Volunteer with DOC

Being a volunteer is fun. You also get to work as part of a team, share your skills and learn new ones, and experience conservation in action. Visit the DOC website to volunteer with DOC.

By Trish Irvine, Ranger Community Relations

After humble beginnings in January 2009 with only 22 Auckland youth, this year, MAD (Make A Difference) Marine launched its 5th year with a record 48 secondary school students from 25 schools across Auckland.

Marine debris found by the MAD Marine team.

Marine debris

The three day leadership hui held on pest-free Motutapu Island kicked off city-side, at the Voyager Maritime Museum, with a welcome and blessing from iwi, a presentation by marine guru Roger Grace, and a talk about marine rubbish from Sustainable Coastlines. The students explored nearby city streets to identify and photograph rubbish-filled drains.

MAD Marine students working in the Motutapu Restoration Trust nursery.

MAD Marine students working in the Motutapu Restoration Trust nursery

Once all the gear and food had been inspected for potential stowaways, we set off for Rangitoto Island which is linked by a causeway to the much older, Motutapu Island. On arrival, we walked in the sunshine to Motutapu Restoration Trust’s (MRT) nursery where students carried out various tasks to help the Trust.

Later, at our base (the Motutapu Outdoor Education Camp), there were presentations about marine mammals and ecological restoration on the island, followed by a night walk to see the freshwater ecology.

Day two began with a dawn walk up the hill to the WWII battery, and after breakfast, a beach clean-up led by the Watercare Harbour Clean Up Trust.

The groups really began to bond with each other and the natural environment during the rocky shore id session … “Aaah look at that tiny cushion star … There’s a cat’s eye … Do you see the half crab? … Who wants to hold the kina? … Can you feel its tube feet?”.

Students participate in a beach clean-up.

Beach clean-up

Kayaking proved to be challenging for some students but they determinedly overcame their fears. Snorkeling in the bay’s unofficial marine reserve revealed an underwater world that was less familiar but full of surprises—snapper up close. Auckland Council’s Waicare team introduced some science and the marine planning session encouraged student’s creativity. In the evening, student leaders inspired everyone with the actions they had taken in their schools and communities, outlining the support they experienced, and the barriers they faced and overcame to “make a difference”.

Did we mention the food? Each year, with great leadership from Cate Jessep Auckland Council, we provide food from scratch, with the help of the students. There’s pizza, French bread, pasta, sushi, salad dressings, stewed plums and biscuits!

The students make pizza.

Interactive pizza making

On the summit of Rangitoto, students looked across to the city and contemplated their actions for 2013. Back down the hill, Marian from the Rangitoto Island Historic Conservation Trust shared a glimpse of a simpler time, showing students the (award winning) restored Bach 38 museum; how people connected with the land, re-used and salvaged materials to build these humble baches that are now an icon. After hilarious skits from each group we journeyed home exhausted and inspired.

One student kicked off her actions the following day with this blog – Ignore that jellyfish costume! One student’s article was even published in Element Magazine.

And aside from the formal evaluations filled in by students we’ve had some fantastic unsolicited feedback:

Another student:

“It was such an inspiring atmosphere to be amongst. Being surrounded by such motivated and change-making adults as well as young people made me feel a great sense of hope for years to come.

“In a society that focuses so much on the negative and so-called ‘dead-end’ state of the environment around us, it is refreshing to see people not only with the aspirations to make a change, but the motivation to follow through.

I hope to FINALLY implement a successful and efficient recycling system, beginning with a rubbish audit, upon my return to school. Although something more revolutionary would be more likely to fulfil my desire to make a change, I figure it’s best to start with baby steps.”

A parent’s feedback:

Please accept our thanks for providing such a fun and educational excursion. It sounded like it was full on but my daughter returned home with a fresh and perceptive understanding of why it is so important to look after the waterways.

“She has been treated to a rich experience in marine education and I hope this will manifest itself into becoming a responsible and assertive caretaker for the future.”

MAD Marine snorkelling and kayaking.

MAD Marine snorkelling and kayaking

The challenge for students who attend MAD Marine is to take their learning and inspiration back to their schools and communities and “make a difference”. This is just the start of the journey, which is ongoing—with catch up events planned each school holiday where students share knowledge successes and challenges with each other, and participate in another volunteer event.

MAD Marine is a partnership between DOC and the Auckland Council. We share the enormous amount of planning and resourcing that makes this annual event such a success.

The first Air New Zealand-funded transfer of fledgling Stewart Island robins from Ulva Island to a new home in the Dancing Star Foundation sanctuary has taken place successfully, with the assistance of students from Halfmoon Bay School.

Kari Beaven prepares a catch net on Ulva Island.

Kari Beaven prepares a catch net on Ulva Island

The transfer is the first step in a plan to re-establish a population of robins on Stewart Island around parts of the Rakiura Great Walk. Located near the start of the Great Walk, the Dancing Star site offers an ideal opportunity for this. Its predator-free status will allow the young birds to establish a breeding population within this fenced ‘mainland island’.

Otago University researcher Sol Heber records data for each robin.

Otago University researcher Sol Heber records data for each robin

Establishing a new breeding population of Stewart Island robins forms part of a much wider biodiversity project resulting from an exciting new conservation partnership between DOC and Air New Zealand.

The project aims to enrich biodiversity and enhance visitor experiences around New Zealand’s Great Walks, with plans also in place for the Routeburn, Milford and Lake Waikaremoana tracks.

Robins are transported securely in cat carrying boxes.

Robins are transported securely in cat carrying boxes

The recent capture of robins on Ulva Island was undertaken by DOC staff and members of a University of Otago research team. After being measured and weighed the fledglings were placed in boxes in preparation for their journey, initially by boat, to their new location.The Halfmoon Bay School children’s role in the transfer was to assist with the release of the robins. After meeting the boat, the children accompanied the birds, in their boxes, into an area of dense bush inside the Dancing Star sanctuary.

Fledgling robin a little reluctant to leave the safety of the carry box.

Fledgling robin a little reluctant to leave the safety of the carry box

A mihi was performed to welcome the robins to their new home, after which, one by one, boxes were opened by the children and the birds were offered their freedom.

It was such a buzz, they’re still talking about it. One child said, “I didn’t think it was going to let go of the perch”. Another: “I got a fright when it took off”, and another said it was “really cool”. Several thought it was pretty funny taking the birds in cat carrying boxes!
Robins in boxes are accompanied by children from Halfmoon Bay school.

Robins in boxes are accompanied by children from Halfmoon Bay school

As their population establishes and increases, future generations of robins are expected to ‘spill over’ and establish in territories outside the predator-fenced sanctuary. Over time, walkers on the Rakiura Track will be able to see and hear robins.

A trapping programme to manage predators around the Rakiura track is part of the Air New Zealand Great Walk biodiversity project. The project also includes plans to increase the kiwi population and work on the restoration of significant dunes adjacent to the Great Walk.

Helping release the robins into their new home.

Helping release the robins into their new home