BIOL305-23SU1 (C) Summer Jan 2023 start

Practical Field Botany

15 points

Start Date: Monday, 9 January 2023
End Date: Sunday, 12 February 2023
Withdrawal Dates
Last Day to withdraw from this course:
  • Without financial penalty (full fee refund): Sunday, 15 January 2023
  • Without academic penalty (including no fee refund): Sunday, 29 January 2023


A residential field course focussing on the identification and sampling of plants, in practical (field) conditions.

Practical Field Botany is an intensive, 8-day summer course designed to teach students and professionals basic skills in field botany. It is targeted at students who intend to seek employment in areas such as field ecology, conservation, biosecurity, taxonomy and systematics. It is also of interest to members of the workforce who need to acquire or upgrade taxonomic skills, e.g., from Crown Research Institutes, the Department of Conservation, local and regional councils, and botanic gardens, and those with employment in horticulture or education. The course is designed to accommodate participants with various entry levels: from students with limited plant knowledge to experienced career professionals. BIOL305 is a ‘flippedclassroom’ course in which traditional lectures are replaced by field-based projects and associated workshops and discussions.

Student Feedback
“I cannot state strongly enough how professional, informative, supportive and enjoyable this course was. The lecturer and other staff were able to convey information in an incredibly intense time frame to a range of students with widely varied levels of understanding in the subject. This course and the teaching involved surpassed any positive expectations I had before enrolling”
2017 Student in teaching evaluation.

“Thanks for a great course – I got a lot out of it! - and am looking forward to putting my ID skills to use helping with DOC’s Tier One monitoring for most of Feb and March”: Sue Lake, Ranger Services, DOC.

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

“I'm totally hooked on botany now, I absolutely loved the course! I have my first botanical survey to do next week, great timing!”: Marcia Dale, Ryder Consulting Limited.

Learning Outcomes

  • Hua ako / Course learning outcomes and Aromatawai / Associated assessment

    At the end of the course, students are expected to be able to:
  • Explain the role of New Zealand plant species in Te Ao Māori, using examples (assessment: pre-course assignment; GP3: K3).
  • Spot-identify c. 80 species that are commonly found in various ecosystems in the Southern Alps (assessment: mid-course test and final exam; GP1&2).
  • Use traditional and online taxonomic keys to identify plants and to confirm identifications using an herbarium collection, literature and online resources (assessment: mid-course test and final exam; GP1&2).
  • Construct taxonomic keys (assessment: assignment during workshop; GP1).
  • Collect and prepare botanical specimens for scientific purposes and to record associated ecological data (assessment: Assignment 1: Collecting and preparing herbarium specimens; GP1&2). 2 of 5
  • Independently prepare and develop a reference collection with notes about diagnostic characters and ecological characteristics that serves as a practical aid to plant identification and recognition (assessment: Assignment 2: The portable reference collection; GP1&2).
  • Make decisions regarding plant collecting that are in accordance with regulations and ethical
    considerations and that minimise environmental impact (assessment: final exam; GP2).
  • Find the currently accepted scientific name for a plant, understand classifications and name changes and use names to access information about New Zealand plants (assessment: final exam; GP1&2).
  • Taking and editing high-quality photographs of plants for scientific purposes and plant identification (assessment: final exam and Assignment 3: Plant photography; GP1&2).
  • Understand basic ecological and systematic concepts and processes that are relevant to understanding patterns of botanical diversity in the Southern Alps (assessment: final exam; GP1).

    Pūkenga ngaio / Transferable skills
    The following skills are developed in this course:
  • Collecting biological field data. Important for research and in governmental and non-governmental organizations (GP1&2).
  • Plant identification. Essential in organismal biology, conservation, and biosecurity (GP1&2).
  • Collecting, documenting, and preserving biological specimens. Key in, amongst others, ecology,
    systematics and conservation (GP1&2).
  • Independent and self-motivated learning. A life-skill that is important in any career (GP2).
  • Finding, understanding, and using information in literature and on the internet. These are very general skills that are essential in many careers (GP2).
  • Verbal communication. Expressing yourself clearly and concisely is important when you are attending meetings, having a telephone conversation, giving presentations, or teaching/training (GP2).
  • Written communication. Many employers require employees to have good written communication skills (GP2).
    • University Graduate Attributes

      This course will provide students with an opportunity to develop the Graduate Attributes specified below:

      Critically competent in a core academic discipline of their award

      Students know and can critically evaluate and, where applicable, apply this knowledge to topics/issues within their majoring subject.

      Employable, innovative and enterprising

      Students will develop key skills and attributes sought by employers that can be used in a range of applications.

      Biculturally competent and confident

      Students will be aware of and understand the nature of biculturalism in Aotearoa New Zealand, and its relevance to their area of study and/or their degree.


(1) BIOL215 or (2) BIOL273 or (3) BIOL270 or (4) BIOL274 and BIOL275 or (5) subject to approval by the Head of the School of Biological Sciences

Timetable Note

Tentative dates for 2024 course:

5–15 January 2024: reading of course materials as preparation
for the course (at home).

16 January 2024, afternoon: travel from UC campus to Cass
17–23 January 2024: field excursions and other course work
24 January 2024, morning: final exam and handing in course
work; afternoon: travel back to UC campus
(UC provides all transportation to, from, and at the Cass region)

25 January – 2 February 2024: completing and submitting plant
photography assignment (at home).

Course Coordinator / Lecturer

Pieter Pelser


Matthew Walters


Assessment Due Date Percentage 
Assignment 1 10%
Assignment 2 20%
Assignment 3 5%
Final Exam 60%
Mid Course Test 5%

Exam is undertaken at Cass before returning to Christchurch.

Textbooks / Resources

Information about some of the plants featured in the course
• An illustrated checklist of the flora of the University of Canterbury Cass Mountain Research Area:
• BIOL305 iNaturalist observations:


Venue and area
The venue for the Practical Field Botany course is the Mountain Biological Field Station at Cass, 105 km west of Christchurch in the mountains of the Waimakariri Basin.

It is located near a wide range of habitats with a huge diversity of plants and animals.

The field station provides comfortable accommodation, laboratory facilities, and internet access with the natural world at the doorstep.

The course includes field excursions to the Waimakariri Basin, Southern Beech forest, West-coast forest, Otira Valley, and the Cragieburn Forest Park.

Indicative Fees

Domestic fee $1,103.00

International fee $4,902.00

* All fees are inclusive of NZ GST or any equivalent overseas tax, and do not include any programme level discount or additional course-related expenses.

Minimum enrolments

This course will not be offered if fewer than 10 people apply to enrol.

Limited Entry Course

Maximum enrolment is 28

For further information see School of Biological Sciences .

All BIOL305 Occurrences

  • BIOL305-23SU1 (C) Summer Jan 2023 start