Ecology in Action Semester Program

collage of images of students working in different outdoor environments and underwater.

Semester Program

EcoQuest semester programs provide an exciting opportunity to be part of a vibrant learning community for 15 weeks and to be involved in local research. Students will experience living and working closely with a dynamic team of peers, faculty and staff. Our established network of scientists, policy makers, planners, resource managers, and community members throughout New Zealand provides for buoyant learning and interactions in the framework of the program.

EcoQuest students, from a diversity of disciplines, are immersed in a rigorous field-based program with a focus on practical skills and conceptual thinking, and opportunities to contribute to local conservation and resource management initiatives. Each semester, our team will explore terrestrial, coastal, and marine ecosystems at a variety of locations in New Zealand and examine the unique natural history and environmental impacts first-hand. New Zealand provides an ideal context for multi-faceted studies in ecology: the unique geology and ecosystem diversity make for a natural laboratory, superbly suited to applied field studies. Along with rich cultural traditions and innovative policy, New Zealand has considerable commitment to – and lively debate on - sustainable management of natural resources at several levels of government. Program delivery sites may vary among semesters, but the core curriculum / course content is fixed.

Three courses (NR660-NR662) are tied together through lectures and field exercises (up to 15 per semester). You will learn about the forces and influences (geological and cultural) that shaped New Zealand as we know it today, and gain an understanding of topical resource management issues (from restoration ecology to extractive industries). We build on this knowledge with field exercises and field investigations in a variety of settings. Teamwork is an important component of the field exercises. Each week has a theme or case study to which learning opportunities and outcomes are tied.

The first week of each semester is dedicated to orientation, operating procedures, and introduction of course material. We often take an introductory hike during the first week. During the following weeks, ecology in action – from the mountains to the sea – is the main pursuit. We explore nearby coastal / marine ecosystems, influences of land-use on catchments, restoration ecology, wildlife management issues, and marine ecology. You will learn about participation by communities in the achievement of conservation goals. We have at least one overnight stay on a marae during each semester, which allows a glimpse into Maori culture and traditions. Each semester includes a 3-week program component, which is delivered in the South Island. The two important themes for this part of the program are ‘ecology of alpine and montane environments’, and ‘eco-tourism and sustainability’. In addition and often tied in to one of the two aforementioned themes, we explore mainland islands, environmental education, and catchment management.

The final four and half weeks of each semester are reserved for the Directed Research Projects. In close consultation with faculty, students focus on projects that explore specific aspects of ecology and resource management. Students carry out field investigations and, guided by faculty, analyse and interpret results. A written project report and an oral presentation of your findings are the final learning outputs for the semester. All projects offered by EcoQuest have scientific and societal relevance. Directed Research Projects contribute information relevant to on-going ecological monitoring and research, restoration and resource management initiatives of local importance.

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