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Source: Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology

Life during lockdown looked a lot different for adventurous environmental management students at Toi Ohomai.

With campuses closed to join the nationwide effort to fight the spread of COVID-19, many of the Institute’s courses moved to an online delivery model for the first semester.

As with many other hands-on courses offered at Toi Ohomai, this move was particularly challenging for students enrolled in the Terrestrial Invertebrates paper of the New Zealand Diploma in Environmental Management (Level 5).

The Terrestrial Invertebrates paper is a practical course with components that require students to go into the field to collect various types of invertebrates to learn about their biology, ecology, classification and identification. However, restrictions under Alert Level 4 meant students couldn’t do this with their classmates and tutor.

Determined to give her students the opportunity to learn these hands-on skills, Environmental Management Tutor Lisa Denmead reached out to her network for ideas. 

“I got in touch with a lecturer at Lincoln University, who introduced me to iNaturalist, which he had already been using in his classes for some time.”
iNaturalist is a citizen science project and online social network built on the concept of mapping and sharing observations of biodiversity across the globe. The website can be accessed online or via a mobile app.

Lisa says the students were enthusiastic about using it for their assessments and were invited to join the same project as the Lincoln University class.

“It essentially challenges them to go out into their gardens and, using different collection methods they learn about in class, collect invertebrates and upload them to iNaturalist. 

“Industry experts can then confirm or amend the students’ identifications to a level that can be used in research.”

Lisa says the exercise has been productive and has enabled students to use and develop the skills they learn in theory and know they are contributing to worldwide biodiversity datasets. 

“Monitoring is very important if we want to understand changes in the environment and get ahead of them, so it’s vital students get to practice these methods. It’s also a great way for them to get a more practical experience, like they would have had in the classroom.” 

The Terrestrial Invertebrates paper is part of the one-year New Zealand Diploma in Environmental Management (Terrestrial Strand)