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Students to swarm on Nina Valley

Media release – 12 March 2014

Students to swarm on Nina Valley

If you go down into the woods on the Canterbury side of Lewis Pass this weekend (March 14-16), you might be in for a big surpise. It’s entirley possible you might get counted, measured and weighed, and have your gender and location recorded for posterity!

Humans aren’t really on the list of insects, bugs, birds, reptiles, plants and fungi that more than 200 students and 100 scientists will be in the Nina Valley to measure during the three days, but their enthusiasm for recording every biological detail of the mountain valley will be hard to miss!

The high school students, plus their teachers, university students, and a host of scientists and researchers of various persuasions will be taking part in the Nina Valley Ecoblitz, a science education project organised by Hurunui College, Lincoln University, the Department of Conservation (DOC), Environment Canterbury and the Hurunui District Council.

Chair of the organising committee Tim Kelly (Hurunui College) says: “This will be a highly valuable science-based outdoor education experience. We’ve got taxonomists, ecologists, entomologists, herpetologists, zoologists and just about every other ‘ologist’ you can think of who will work with these youngsters to carry out scientific surveys and other related activities in various parts of the valley. They’ll learn the basics of a multitude of skills such as marking out plots and doing species surveys, animal trapping, bat tracking, electric fishing, nature photography, bird surveys and so on.”

Tim says it’s rare for high school students to be able to work so closely with university researchersd, which is what makes the ecoblitz such a valuable education event.

“The kids will also be learning how to be responsible for themselves and the environment. We can’t let more than 300 people into the bush without getting the appropriate approval and permits from DOC to protect the very plants and animals they’ll be studying, and looking after their own safety.”

The Ecoblitz has been more than a year in the planning and its hoped there might even be a new species or two to be discovered.

“While some of the activities will, of necessicity, be a basic introduction to some of the sciences involved, we wanted to make sure that some of the work is scientifically valid so any data collected is valuable for ongoing research and future comparison.

“So the student participants will get to see some serious taxonomy going on as various species are examined and photographed and their details loaded in real time onto websites to help bring in the identification resources of the wider scientific community. I’s entirely possible a new plant, insect or fungi species could be found!”

Tim says thanks to generous funding by the Brian Mason Scientific and Technical trust and the Canterbury Community Trust, among others, the whole exercise has been fully funded so that the pupils and their schools are able to attend for free, including food and travel expenses.

The Ecoblitz will begin on the evening of Friday 14 March at Boyle Outdoor Education Centre near Lewis Pass and conclude on the afternoon of Sunday 16 March 2014.

Participating schools include:


Hurunui College

Cashmere High

John Pauls Greymouth

Craighead Diocesan Timaru

Rangi Ruru

Burnside High

Rangiora High

Lincoln High

Oxford Area School

Homeschool

Rangiora New Life

The Correspondence School

Marian College

Christchurch Boys High

Darfield High

Amuri Area School

Hillview Christian School

Cheviot Area School

Linwood College

More details at: www.ninavalleyecoblitz.com

ENDS

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