BIOSCI 325 : Plant Diversity and Function


2021 Semester Two (1215) (15 POINTS)

Course Prescription

Plants form the basis of ecosystem food chains and are fundamental to life on Earth. The diversity in land plants from both phylogenetic and functional trait perspectives will be presented, exploring key steps in the evolution of plants and how they interact with their environment. It provides a framework of plant life focussing on the ecologically, economically and culturally important plants of Aotearoa New Zealand.

Course Overview

We offer a welcoming, inspiring and intellectually challenging course exploring the fascinating diversity, evolution and relationships of plants, their behaviour and function. BIOSCI325 celebrates diverse people and diverse plants - we strive for a welcoming, safe, and accessible class. Our fieldtrips are accessible daytime excursions (no overnight or evening activities). We are inspired by a tuakana-teina approach in which the knowledge of all students and staff is valued and can be shared. We focus on plant groups and the drivers of plant diversity, especially in Aotearoa with reference to global patterns in plant diversity and function. We explore phylogeny, evolution, morphology, human use of plants, physiology, ecological functions and plant-animal interactions, within a framework recognising the diverse cultural value of plants, and the importance of plant conservation.

Our course is designed for students interested in a career involving botany, ecology, plant biology, plant taxonomy or plant structure and function. Future careers could be in applied research or management of plants, e.g. for biosecurity, conservation, horticulture, or food production, or theoretical studies of plant diversity, evolution, ecophysiology, or botany in general. 

We develop both botany-specific and broadly applicable scientific career skills that will be useful in workplaces or postgraduate studies in biology, ecology, biosecurity or conservation, including: reviewing & synthesising scientific information, preparing a scientific paper for submission to a journal, and hands-on skills in collecting, identifying, and archiving plants and herbarium data. To facilitate career development, we have labs, guest speakers, and activities with several of Auckland's main employers of ecology and botany graduates: Auckland Council, Auckland Botanic Gardens, Auckland Museum, and Plant & Food.

A remote version of the course will be available for those studying from overseas - we warmly welcome local and international students.

BIOSCI325 Plant Diversity and Function is a core course in the Plant Biology pathway. It is also highly recommended for the Ecology pathway and available for students doing a BSc majoring in Biological Sciences with an interest in plants.

Course Requirements

Prerequisite: BIOSCI 108, and BIOSCI 205 or 206 Restriction: BIOSCI 323

Capabilities Developed in this Course

Capability 1: Disciplinary Knowledge and Practice
Capability 2: Critical Thinking
Capability 4: Communication and Engagement
Capability 5: Independence and Integrity
Capability 6: Social and Environmental Responsibilities
Graduate Profile: Bachelor of Science

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course, students will be able to:
  1. Describe how plants are classified, the key features of the major plant groups, and how their relationships and traits define taxonomy. (Capability 1)
  2. Analyse how plant diversity and function is affected by plant traits, distributions, and interactions with other plants and animals. (Capability 1 and 2)
  3. Characterise the deep cultural value of plants from Māori and diverse international perspectives, the key threats to plant conservation and functional performance, and how these inform our approaches to studying and conserving plants. (Capability 4, 5 and 6)
  4. Employ professional skills in researching, discussing, and writing about contemporary taxonomic and conservation issues in botany. (Capability 2, 4, 5 and 6)
  5. Apply best practice methods for finding, collecting, identifying, and archiving plant specimens accurately and ethically. (Capability 1, 5 and 6)
  6. Describe and understand how plants respond to environmental conditions based on plant functional behaviour. (Capability 1 and 2)
  7. Characterise the importance of plants in global cycles of carbon and water and understand plant-climate interactions. (Capability 1, 2 and 6)


Assessment Type Percentage Classification
Essay 15% Individual Coursework
Assignments 25% Individual Coursework
Test 15% Individual Test
Final Exam 35% Individual Examination
Laboratories 10% Individual Coursework
Assessment Type Learning Outcome Addressed
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Final Exam

Students must pass the practical (labs and assignments) and the theory (essay, test and final exam) independently to pass the course overall.


We have no formal Tuākana program, but we connect closely with current and past Tuākana and teina and can help connect any students that would like to form study groups.

Key Topics

We have three major themes:
Plant groups and their traits
- we cover all the major land-based plant groups, with an emphasis on Aotearoa species
Drivers of plant diversity
- e.g. evolution, biogeography, cultural use, and plant-animal interactions
Plant functional diversity
- including plant ecophysiology and plant-climate interactions

Special Requirements

All activities are intended to be inclusive for diverse students
  • There are no overnight fieldtrips or evening tests.
  • We have one (optional) day trip on a Saturday to Totara Park, next to the Botanic Gardens in Manurewa - gravel tracks, can be muddy, some steep sections but not essential to go to those spots, unisex toilets nearby at the Botanic Gardens, service dogs and accompanying persons welcome (please contact course coordinator to organise this).This trip is an opportunity to collect plants to press for your major plant collection assignment.
  • During the mid-semester break, we have 2 days with a 1-3hr daytime visit to the Auckland Museum (these form the basis of a lab report worth 5%).
  • This course requires you to make a collection of plant specimens to press. If you are studying remotely with no access to any plants or equipment you can use to press plants, or if you are unable to collect plants for any other reason, please contact the course-coordinator to discuss options.

Workload Expectations

This course is a standard 15 point course and students are expected to spend 10 hours per week involved in each 15 point course that they are enrolled in.

For this course, you can expect 30 hours of lectures, 5 labs (3 hours each + 3 hours of preparation and assignments each), 1 day field trip (~5 hours), 2 days with a 3hr visit to Auckland Museum during mid-semester break, 40 hours for other assignments (essay and plant collection) and 40 hours for thinking, reading, revision and exam practice, totalling approximately 150 hours across the semester.

Delivery Mode

Campus Experience

Attendance is expected at scheduled activities including labs and field trips to complete components of the course.
Lectures will be available as recordings. Other learning activities including labs and field trips will not be available as recordings.
The course will not include live online events.
Attendance on campus is required for the test and exam.
The activities for the course are scheduled as a standard weekly timetable.

A remote version of the course can be made available to students located overseas because of border restrictions, or those with an exemption to study remotely.

Learning Resources

All course materials are provided on Canvas. Please contact the course coordinator if you would like them to print you a copy of the course guide. There are no prescribed text books.

Student Feedback

During the course Class Representatives in each class can take feedback to the staff responsible for the course and staff-student consultative committees.

At the end of the course students will be invited to give feedback on the course and teaching through a tool called SET or Qualtrics. The lecturers and course co-ordinators will consider all feedback.

Your feedback helps to improve the course and its delivery for all students.

We warmly welcome feedback from students particularly because this course has been highly modified.

Other Information

Thanks for considering enrolling in BIOSCI325 Plant Diversity and Function. The Lecturers include Bruce Burns, Cate Macinnis-Ng, Shane Wright, and guests such as ex-students now employed as botanists at the Botanic Gardens, Plant and Food, and Auckland Museum. We genuinely really enjoy teaching this course and look forward to meeting you.

Digital Resources

Course materials are made available in a learning and collaboration tool called Canvas which also includes reading lists and lecture recordings (where available).

Please remember that the recording of any class on a personal device requires the permission of the instructor.

Academic Integrity

The University of Auckland will not tolerate cheating, or assisting others to cheat, and views cheating in coursework as a serious academic offence. The work that a student submits for grading must be the student's own work, reflecting their learning. Where work from other sources is used, it must be properly acknowledged and referenced. This requirement also applies to sources on the internet. A student's assessed work may be reviewed against online source material using computerised detection mechanisms.


The content and delivery of content in this course are protected by copyright. Material belonging to others may have been used in this course and copied by and solely for the educational purposes of the University under license.

You may copy the course content for the purposes of private study or research, but you may not upload onto any third party site, make a further copy or sell, alter or further reproduce or distribute any part of the course content to another person.

Inclusive Learning

All students are asked to discuss any impairment related requirements privately, face to face and/or in written form with the course coordinator, lecturer or tutor.

Student Disability Services also provides support for students with a wide range of impairments, both visible and invisible, to succeed and excel at the University. For more information and contact details, please visit the Student Disability Services’ website

We warmly welcome diverse students - nau mai, haere mai tangata whenua, Pacifika students, students with disabilities, refugee background, gender diverse, international, mature age, LGBTQITakatāpui+, parents and carers, part-time students - all welcome.

Special Circumstances

If your ability to complete assessed coursework is affected by illness or other personal circumstances outside of your control, contact a member of teaching staff as soon as possible before the assessment is due.

If your personal circumstances significantly affect your performance, or preparation, for an exam or eligible written test, refer to the University’s aegrotat or compassionate consideration page

This should be done as soon as possible and no later than seven days after the affected test or exam date.

Learning Continuity

In the event of an unexpected disruption we undertake to maintain the continuity and standard of teaching and learning in all your courses throughout the year. If there are unexpected disruptions the University has contingency plans to ensure that access to your course continues and your assessment is fair, and not compromised. Some adjustments may need to be made in emergencies. You will be kept fully informed by your course co-ordinator, and if disruption occurs you should refer to the University Website for information about how to proceed.

In the event of teaching being disrupted by changes in Covid-19 alert levels, please check for notifications from the course coordinator but as a general guide, the following frame work will be followed.
Level 1:  Delivered normally as specified in delivery mode
Level 2: You will not be required to attend in person.  All teaching and assessment will have a remote option.  The following activities will also have an on campus / in person option: Lectures, labs and field trips
Level 3 / 4: All teaching activities and assessments are delivered remotely

Student Charter and Responsibilities

The Student Charter assumes and acknowledges that students are active participants in the learning process and that they have responsibilities to the institution and the international community of scholars. The University expects that students will act at all times in a way that demonstrates respect for the rights of other students and staff so that the learning environment is both safe and productive. For further information visit Student Charter


Elements of this outline may be subject to change. The latest information about the course will be available for enrolled students in Canvas.

In this course you may be asked to submit your coursework assessments digitally. The University reserves the right to conduct scheduled tests and examinations for this course online or through the use of computers or other electronic devices. Where tests or examinations are conducted online remote invigilation arrangements may be used. The final decision on the completion mode for a test or examination, and remote invigilation arrangements where applicable, will be advised to students at least 10 days prior to the scheduled date of the assessment, or in the case of an examination when the examination timetable is published.

Published on 08/12/2020 05:17 p.m.