Freshwater 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

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
1x pH 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

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:


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.

Upcoming bookings for 2022

  • 14 Feb – 7 March Papanui High School
  • 8–14 April Hagley College
  • 9–18 May Hillmorton High

To request use of the biodiversity box, please complete our reservation form

banner for the biology outreach module - freshwater biodiversity box