Practical field skills the focus of biology summer courses at UC

15 October 2017

Summer is a great time to get out in the mountains and by enrolling at UC you can upgrade your skills while hiking up valleys or wading in streams.

Credit Matt Walters

A biology student preparing a herbarium specimen at Cass field station during the field botany course.

Biological Sciences offer an eight-day intensive Practical Field Botany course designed to teach students and professionals basic skills in field botany.

The course is taught entirely from UC’s mountain field station at Cass, near Arthurs Pass in the heart of the Southern Alps and is targeted at students who intend to seek employment in areas such as field ecology, conservation, biosecurity, taxonomy and systematics. It is also popular with members of the workforce who need to acquire or upgrade taxonomic skills, from botanic gardens staff, DOC rangers and quarantine officers to consulting engineers.

“The field course is designed to accommodate participants with various entry levels: from students with limited plant knowledge to experienced career professionals,” says Dr Pieter Pelser, course lecturer.

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

This botany course has banished structured lectures, replacing them with field based projects, workshops and discussions. This approach allows the course to adapt to the differing backgrounds of the participants.

Visual Artist, and 2017 participant, Erin Forsyth joined the course to learn while undertaking a residency with Studio One Toi Tū. She is investigating links between cultural diversity and biodiversity “I thought an intensive crash course in plant identification would be one of the most practical channels of learning that I could undertake. This course has been really good for that.”

The Department of Conservation has also been very supportive of the course, funding several of their staff each year to attend. A number of degree participants have also gone on to work for DoC as part of their Tier One monitoring programme, using the skills they have learnt during the course.

UC also offers a Freshwater Science Field Skills course where through practical exercises students are introduced to techniques for measuring physical, chemical and biological aspects of freshwater ecosystems. 

For further information please contact:

Dr Pieter Pelser, Course lecturer
Phone: +6433695228 |
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