Biologists seek evidence to explain the nature of living things and to understand where and how life is evolving, how evolution links life processes and ecology, and the impact that humans have on all forms of life.

Classroom sets of gel electrophoresis equipment are available on loan to local schools for senior biology students. The equipment uses self-contained gel in a transparent cassette.

A set of sampling equipment for investigating freshwater biodiversity is also available. This allows teachers access to resources such as kicknets, waders and a dissolved oxygen meter. This will allow them the flexibility to plan their own activities.

We also offer teacher resources aligned to the New Zealand curriculum documenting bird life on Rangatira Island in the Chatham Islands.  These are suitable for all age groups. This island is very remote and can only be accessed with a special permit as it is the home to many endangered New Zealand native species including the black robin.

Gel electrophoresis

Undertake a practical activity to reveal how enzymes can be used to cut DNA plasmids in a controlled way, enabling further genetic investigations. Also view how an electric current can be used on charged molecules to separate different size pieces.

Classroom sets of gel electrophoresis equipment are available on loan to local schools (requires pick up from and return to UC) for senior biology students. The equipment uses self-contained E-Gels containing agarose, electrodes and ion-exchange matrices inside a disposable, transparent cassette.

Samples of plasmid (pBR322) will be provided, precut with two restriction enzymes, along with a sample of a high-range DNA ladder to enable students to identify the fragments on their finished gel.

Each gel has enough wells to be used by two groups of students.

The gels take only 10 minutes to run, and the whole process can be completed in one period. However, we do recommend that you take two periods to use this equipment - one period discussing the technology and familiarising the students with the equipment and the protocols and a second period to run the gels.

Make a reservation

Note: The kit is available to schools local to the University of Canterbury, the kit must be collected from and returned to UC by the school.

Please check that your proposed dates do not clash with an existing reservation below.

Submit a reservation via the Gel electrophoresis kit reservation form

Please submit your request in good time as gels are perishable so we do not keep a large stock, their delivery time form the USA is can be up to 8 weeks.

Directions to Biological Sciences

Confirmed upcoming reservations 2019

Kit 1Kit 2

8-12 April Middleton Grange

13–20 May Cashmere High

27-31 May Christ's College










Matt Walters

Science Communication, Digital Imaging, Outreach
Julius von Haast 432
Internal Phone: 95211

Biodiversity box

The Freshwater Biodiversity Box is a dedicated set of freshwater sampling gear and activities available for schools.

It includes the tools to sample freshwater invertebrates, information on sampling methods, invertebrate identification guides and activities based on three key concepts:
1) healthy freshwater habitats;
2) invertebrates as biomonitoring tools; and
3) food webs.

The Freshwater Biodiversity Box was developed by the CAREX team ( at the University of Canterbury’s School of Biological Sciences with the $2000 prize from the Canterbury Aoraki Conservation Board Award & Trophy received in 2017. This award recognises the efforts of local groups and individuals supporting conservation within the wider Canterbury region and is supported by the Isaac Conservation and Wildlife Trust. CAREX was recognised with the prestigious award for their efforts in improving freshwater biodiversity and ecosystem healthy in agricultural waterways.

CAREX (Canterbury Waterway Rehabilitation Experiment) was an agricultural waterway restoration experiment that ran in 2013-2018. CAREX worked with farmers, councils, stakeholders and the public to co-develop and trial solutions to rehabilitate freshwater ecosystems. CAREX tested practical tools to address aquatic weed, sediment and nutrient management issues in lowland Canterbury to improve waterway health. More information on the project can be found at The full CAREX collection of handouts, newsletters, and posters are available at

Freshwater biodiversity box logo banner

Contents of the Freshwater Biodiversity Box

2x waders (size 7 and 10)
2x surber samplers - for taking quantitative samples of organisms
4x kicknets - for taking qualitative samples of organisms
1x dissolved oxygen meter

5x clipboards
2x one metre rulers
1x 30m tape measure
12x white invertebrate sorting trays
1x detergent spray
30x forceps

15x freshwater invertebrate id guides
15x macroinvertebrate guides
15x fish guides

Resources for junior students:
1x Up the River book 
1x Tuna and Patiki book
4x foodweb game 
Printed resources 
- Observe like a scientist
- Water quality monitoring
- Waterway scavenger hunt

Make a reservation

Note: The kit is available to schools local to the University of Canterbury, the kit must be collected from and returned to UC by the school.

Please check that your proposed dates do not clash with an existing reservation below.

Submit a reservation via the Freshwater biodiversity box reservation form

Directions to Biological Sciences

Confirmed upcoming reservations 2019

  • 13-22 March Rolleston High
  • 27 March - 5 April Catholic Cathedral College
  • 20 Nov - 5 Dec Papanui High

External resources

Sampling methods

Two methods commonly used to sample freshwater macroinvertebrates are kick nets and surber nets. Kick nets can be used to sample multiple habitats in a stream at one time and to determine biodiversity, whereas surbers are used to collect data on invertebrates within a known area of substrate, such as density per metre squared.

Often, both methods are used in sampling to look at changes in benthic macroinvertebrate diversity and density overtime.

To see more about how to sample with these tools and the different information they can give us, let’s join UC’s Prof Jon Harding on the Ashley River:

Rangatira Island

Birds and their habitats: which bird lives where?

Many different habitats occur on Rangatira Island and these are home to many different bird species. The introduction allows students to see the habitats on the island and be introduced to some of the bird species living there. The worksheet asks students to identify parts of birds and gives some simple information about each bird featured.

Download the resources

The life of scientist

Scientists come to live and work on Rangatira Island for weeks at a time. The scientists rely on all their provisions being delivered by boat. The island has no phone or cell phone coverage or mains electricity or mains water. The scientists are studying the unique bird life on the island and, in particular, the population of black robins on the island. The worksheet asks students to consider what equipment the scientists need for their work and why they need it.

Download the resources

Banding Birds

Much work on Rangatira Island involves monitoring the bird populations that are present. Scientists record this information by placing bands on the legs of the birds on the island. The introduction in this lesson allows students to see how this is done and to discuss why it is important. The worksheet asks students to interpret data from the scientists on Rangatira Island to identify facts about some of the birds living there.

Download the resources

Using keys to identify birds

Rangatira Island is home to many species of birds. This activity provides a classification key to identify some of these birds. The introduction involves identifying arthropods that live on Rangatira Island.

Download the resources

Food Webs

Rangatira Island supports a wide variety of species.  This activity gives students information about some of the species that live on Rangatira Island.  Students require some prior knowledge of food chains and food webs to complete this activity.


This activity poses exam-style questions that are based on a study of the differential effects of exotic predator-control on nest success of native and introduced birds in New Zealand.

Download the resources

Survivor Aotearoa

This activity is based on a research study investigating the effect of predation level on the nesting behaviour of Bellbirds. The aim is to initiate discussion and interpret the results of this study.

Download the resources

Hatching failure and population bottlenecks

This activity is based on a study investigating the effect of population bottleneck size on hatching failure in birds. To initiate discussion and interpret results of this study.

Download the resources


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