The Natural Lab - Opoutere

image of people from a distance walking across beachHere we study managing multiple uses of coastal areas and catchment management issues. The Wharekawa estuary, Opoutere, the beach and sand spit, form an important area of the coastline of the Coromandel Peninsula. The estuary supports a variety of habitats, many of which are important for wildlife. It is one of the few coastal areas left on the Coromandel Peninsula where residential development has occurred only at low levels. The wetland is characterised by diverse plant communities. The threatened New Zealand dotterel (Charadrius obscuris), as well as the variable oystercatcher (Haematopus unicolor), breed on the sand spit. A total of 70 species of birds are known to use the estuary and the adjacent coastal/marine environment. Once a year, EcoQuest staff and students carry out shellfish monitoring in the estuary.








two students collecting samples




"The EcoQuest journey was eye-opening. I explored ecosystems by kayak, on foot in knee-deep mud, and from various policy perspectives. Six days a week in the field offers an angle that no classroom or lecture-based course can!"

Iris Levin, Bowdoin College









two people high fiving while in kayaks




"We snorkeled in the first marine reserve in New Zealand, kayaked to study estuaries, and hiked through bird sanctuaries. For me, this was an optimal learning environment. You can't help but internalize the lessons taught while standing right in the middle of it."

Janelle Bosse, University of New Hampshire