BIOL305-19SU1 (C) Summer Jan 2019 start

Practical Field Botany

15 points

Start Date: Monday, 14 January 2019
End Date: Sunday, 10 February 2019
Withdrawal Dates
Last Day to withdraw from this course:
  • Without financial penalty (full fee refund): Friday, 18 January 2019
  • Without academic penalty (including no fee refund): Friday, 1 February 2019


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 the UC Cass field station, the next occurrence is 21–29 January 2020.

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.


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

Timetable Note

Timetable for 2020 course:

10–20 January 2020: reading of course materials as preparation
for the course (at home).

21 January 2020, afternoon: travel from UC campus to Cass
22–28 January 2020: field excursions and other course work
29 January 2020, 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)

30 January – 7 February 2020: 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.

Indicative Fees

Domestic fee $883.00

International fee $4,000.00

* 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

  • BIOL305-19SU1 (C) Summer Jan 2019 start