BIOL305-18SU1 (C) Summer Jan 2018 start

Practical Field Botany

15 points

Start Date: Monday, 15 January 2018
End Date: Sunday, 11 February 2018
Withdrawal Dates
Last Day to withdraw from this course:
  • Without financial penalty (full fee refund): Friday, 19 January 2018
  • Without academic penalty (including no fee refund): Friday, 2 February 2018


A residential field course focussing on the identification and sampling of plants, in practical (field) conditions.

During eight consecutive days in summer, this intensive field course at the Cass field station in the Southern Alps prepares you for careers in field biology, ecology, conservation and taxonomy.

You will learn how to document, identify, collect and preserve plants.

BIOL305 complements other courses in the Ecology, Evolution & Behaviour theme and also provides a base for further training in plant taxonomy.

The course uses examples from the montane and alpine flora of Canterbury, but most acquired skills will be transferable to other regions and other groups of organisms.

BIOL305 is an inverted classroom course in which you learn by doing instead of listening.

It is unique in attracting undergraduate students as well as members from the workforce (e.g., DoC and Environment Canterbury staff) and plant enthusiasts.

This is a residential summer course at Cass field station running 17–25 January 2019.

Student Feedback
“I cannot state strongly enough how professional, informative, supportive and enjoyable this course was. The lecturer and other staff were able to convey information in an incredibly intense time frame to a range of students with widely varied levels of understanding in the subject. This course and the teaching involved surpassed any positive expectations I had before enrolling”
2017 Student in teaching evaluation.

“Thanks for a great course – I got a lot out of it! - and am looking forward to putting my ID skills to use helping with DOC’s Tier One monitoring for most of Feb and March”: Sue Lake, Ranger Services, DOC.

“The concept of an intensive field based course was exactly what I needed to improve my botanical knowledge and confidence”: John Skilton, Park Ranger/Project Manager Travis Wetland, Christchurch City Council.

“I'm totally hooked on botany now, I absolutely loved the course! I have my first botanical survey to do next week, great timing!”: Marcia Dale, Ryder Consulting Limited.

Learning Outcomes

  • Intended learning outcomes and associated assessment
    At the end of the course, students are expected to be able to:
  • Spot-identify c. 80 species that are commonly found in various ecosystems in the Southern Alps (assessment tasks: quiz and final exam)
  • Use traditional and online taxonomic keys to identify plants and to confirm identifications using a herbarium collection, literature and online resources (assessment tasks: quiz and final exam)
  • Construct taxonomic keys (assessment task: unmarked assignment during workshop)
  • Collect and prepare botanical specimens for scientific purposes and to record associated ecological data (assessment task: voucher specimen preparation assignment)
  • Independently prepare and develop a reference collection with notes about diagnostic characters and ecological characteristics that serves as a practical aid to plant identification and recognition (assessment task: field reference collection assignment)
  • Make decisions regarding plant collecting that are in accordance with regulations and ethical considerations and that minimise environmental impact (assessment task: final exam)
  • Find the currently accepted scientific name for a plant, understand classifications and name changes and use names to access information about New Zealand plants (assessment task: final exam)
  • Taking and editing high-quality photographs of plants for scientific purposes and plant identification (assessment task: final exam and unmarked assignment during workshop)
  • Understand basic ecological and systematic concepts and processes that are relevant to understanding patterns of botanical diversity in the Southern Alps (assessment task: final exam)

    Skills register
    The following skills are developed in this course:
  • Collecting biological field data. Important for research and in governmental and non-governmental organizations.
  • Plant identification. Essential in organismal biology, conservation, and biosecurity.
  • Collecting, documenting, and preserving biological specimens. Key in, amongst others, ecology, systematics and conservation.
  • Independent and self-motivated learning. A life-skill that is important in any career.
  • Finding, understanding, and using information in literature and on the internet. These are very general skills that are essential in many careers.
  • Verbal communication. Expressing yourself clearly and concisely is important when you are attending meetings, having a telephone conversation, giving presentations, or teaching/training.
  • Written communication. Many employers require employees to have good written communication skills.
    • University Graduate Attributes

      This course will provide students with an opportunity to develop the Graduate Attributes specified below:

      Critically competent in a core academic discipline of their award

      Students know and can critically evaluate and, where applicable, apply this knowledge to topics/issues within their majoring subject.

      Employable, innovative and enterprising

      Students will develop key skills and attributes sought by employers that can be used in a range of applications.

      Globally aware

      Students will comprehend the influence of global conditions on their discipline and will be competent in engaging with global and multi-cultural contexts.


BIOL215 or BIOL270 or BIOL273 or subject to approval by the Head of the School of Biological Sciences

Timetable Note

Timetable for 2019 course:

14–16 January 2019: reading of course materials as preparation
for the course (at home).

17 January 2019, afternoon: travel from UC campus to Cass
18–24 January 2019: field excursions and other course work
25 January 2019, morning: final exam and handing in course
work; afternoon: travel back to UC campus
(UC provides all transportation to, from, and at the Cass region)

26 January – 2 February 2019: completing and submitting plant
photography assignment (at home).

Course Coordinator / Lecturer

Pieter Pelser


Matthew Walters


Assessment Due Date Percentage 
Herbarium collection 15%
Ready-reference collection 25%
Plant photography 5%
Mid-course test 5%
Final Exam 50%

Exam is undertaken at Cass before returning to Christchurch.

Textbooks / Resources

Information about some of the plants featured in the course
• An illustrated checklist of the flora of the University of Canterbury Cass Mountain Research Area:
• BIOL305 iNaturalist observations:


Venue and area
The venue for the Practical Field Botany course is the Mountain Biological Field Station at Cass, 105 km west of Christchurch in the mountains of the Waimakariri Basin.

It is located near a wide range of habitats with a huge diversity of plants and animals.

The field station provides comfortable accommodation, laboratory facilities, and internet access with the natural world at the doorstep.

The course includes field excursions to the Waimakariri Basin, Southern Beech forest, West-coast forest, Otira Valley, and the Cragieburn Forest Park.

Additional Course Outline Information

Academic integrity

It is essential that you are aware that plagiarism is considered a very serious offence by the Academic community, the University and the School of Biological Sciences. Plagiarism is defined as taking content from another work or author and presenting it, without attribution, as if it is your own work. Content here includes text (sentences or major parts of sentences), display items (graphs and tables), and overall structure (the detailed sequence of ideas). Plagiarism includes:
• re-use of previous assignments (even if each individual sentence has been rephrased to say the same thing in different words, if the overall structure is re-used)  
• copying of another student’s work (with or without their consent)
• the unreferenced use of published material or material from the internet e.g. cutting and pasting of paragraphs or pages into an essay.
For most pieces of in-term assessment you will be given information concerning the use of direct and indirect quotes from previously published work. If you are in any doubt about appropriate use of published material, please speak with a member of academic staff. If you are still unsure what plagiarism is, then seek advice.

It is a School policy that courses may request you submit work electronically for subsequent analysis of originality using Turnitin. Students agree that by taking courses in BIOL, required papers may be subject to submission for textual similarity review to for the detection of plagiarism.  All submitted papers will be included as source documents in the reference database solely for the purpose of detecting plagiarism of such papers.  Use of the service is subject to the Terms and Conditions of Use posted on the site.

Assessment and grading system

A+ 90% or above
A 85 – 90
A- 80 – 84
B+ 75 – 79
B 70 – 74
B- 65 – 69
C+ 60 – 64
C 55 – 59
C- 50 – 54

A restricted pass (R) may be awarded to those who are close to a pass (i.e. an overall score of 48-49.9%) AND who have achieved at least a 40% overall score in both in-course assessment and tests/exams. If an R grade is awarded you gain credit for the course but cannot continue into papers that require this course as a pre-requisite. NB. The R grade is only available at 100 and 200 level - it cannot be awarded for third year papers.

Failing grades:   D   40-49             E  0–39


What if i have written more than the word or page limit?
If there is a word limit on an assignment, it is usually there to stop you doing too much work and to encourage you to write succinctly.  It also makes things easier to assess.  You can be up to 10% over without too much worry, but if the length increases beyond that your mark may suffer due to failure to follow the requirements.  If you find yourself way over the word limit have a chat to the lecturer concerned about how to trim your assignment to an acceptable length.

Requests for extensions

What if I can’t get it finished in time?
Reports and assignments should be handed in on time. Extensions may be granted if you have a valid reason. If you require an extension, you should request one from the course co-ordinator (or the lecturer responsible for marking the work), with as much notice as possible.  Please do this BEFORE the deadline for the assignment. If you have been given an extension you should hand the work DIRECTLY to the course coordinator (do not put it in the drop box as it may not be cleared after the due date).
If an extension has not been granted:
• work must be handed in by the due date to gain full credit
• work handed in up to 7 days after the deadline will be marked, but the marks will be discounted 25% before they are recorded to the student's credit
• any work handed in more than 7 days after the deadline date will not be marked or earn credit.

What do I do if I’m sick?

If you feel that illness, injury, bereavement or other extenuating circumstances beyond your control have prevented you from completing an item of assessment worth 10% or more of total course assessment or if these circumstances affected your performance in such assessments, you should apply for Special Consideration. Applications for Special Consideration should be submitted via the Examinations Office website and notify the course co-ordinator within five days of the assessment or its due date. If this is for medical reasons you should visit a doctor within 24 hours of the assessment (application form available on-line or from the Student Health Centre). The Special Consideration provisions are intended to assist students who have covered the work of a course but have been prevented by illness or other critical circumstances from demonstrating their mastery of the material or skills at the time of assessment – they do not excuse you from doing the assessment within a reasonable time agreed with the course co-ordinator. You should expect to be required to submit additional work if you miss a major assignment (e.g. a field trip for which a major write-up is required).

In rare cases you may not be able to complete an assessment or attend a field trip, because of involvement in international or national representative sport or cultural groups. In such cases you should also apply for Special Consideration. Please review the Special Considerations policy because very few kinds of activities will be eligible for consideration (e.g. holiday trips, birthday parties etc. are not given special status in the University policy).

Students prevented by extenuating circumstances from completing the course after the final date for withdrawing, may apply for Special Consideration for late discontinuation of the course. Applications must be submitted to the Examinations Office within five days of the end of the main examination period for the semester.

For further details on Special Consideration applications, please refer to the Examinations Office website

What if I fail part of the course?

In BIOL, we require a satisfactory level of achievement in both the theoretical aspects of the discipline and in practical activities. This means you must attend all class activities and submit all items of assessment unless you have a very good reason not to (e.g. medical reasons). A student must attain an average score of at least 40% for in-course assessments (e.g. assignments, reports) and an average score of at least 40% in the exam and/or test, AND score at least 50% overall for the course, to be awarded a passing grade. See course outline for clarification of the assessment items included in each category and ask the coordinator if you are still unsure.

What’s the best way to give feedback?

We welcome constructive feedback at all times – help us to make this a valuable course for you.  We endeavour to remain approachable at all times.  If you would rather give feedback anonymously, please use the on-line course survey or talk to lab demonstrators, or your class rep (who will all report back to the staff-student liaison committee that includes a representative from each of the undergraduate classes). Class representatives will be selected from each class at the start of course.

What’s the best way to complain?

If you feel you have not been fairly treated during this course, please raise the issue with the lecturer or course co-ordinator in the first instance.  Other avenues include your class rep., who can raise issues anonymously, or the UCSA education coordinator.

Where to submit and collect work

All assignments should be handed in before leaving Cass Field Station.

Teaching staff will endeavour to return work as soon as possible, and should contact you if there are likely to be any delays that will prevent return within the maximum 4-week timeframe.

Indicative Fees

Domestic fee $865.00

International fee $3,788.00

* All fees are inclusive of NZ GST or any equivalent overseas tax, and do not include any programme level discount or additional course-related expenses.

Minimum enrolments

This course will not be offered if fewer than 10 people apply to enrol.

Limited Entry Course

Maximum enrolment is 28

For further information see School of Biological Sciences .

All BIOL305 Occurrences

  • BIOL305-18SU1 (C) Summer Jan 2018 start