BIOSCI 338 : Biology of Terrestrial Animals


2024 Semester One (1243) (15 POINTS)

Course Prescription

The animals of Aotearoa and Tāmaki Makaurau are iconic. We explore the biology, diversity and whakapapa of our native invertebrate and vertebrate animals. Along with a detailed coverage of biology, we focus on practical techniques for sampling and identifying species. This course involves both fieldwork (with the option to conduct this either on campus, or on an overnight fieldtrip) and labwork and training in using biodiversity data for hypothesis testing and scientific communication.

Course Overview

Welcome! Join us for an enjoyable, inspiring, and practical course exploring our region's wonderful local animals. From pupurangi (kauri snails) and ngaokeoke (velvet worms), to te aitanga pepeke (the insects), and manu, pepeketua and moko (birds, frogs and reptiles) - we focus on native animals, their features, natural history, evolution, and relationships with people, places, and other species. We are inspired by a tuakana-teina approach in which the knowledge of all students and staff is valued and can be shared. Our accessible class involves daytime lectures, labs and fieldtrips, and no overnight trips or evening tests.  You can borrow all the gear you need e.g. insect collecting and pinning equipment, a raincoat for fieldtrips.

Our course is designed for students interested in a career involving native animals, zoology, taxonomy, ecology, biosecurity, conservation or management. We focus on practical skills in finding, surveying, documenting, and identifying animals, and archiving specimens and data. We connect with key employers, such as ecological consultancies and the Auckland Botanic Gardens.
This course is taught in person and is not available as an online course since it requires access to native animals. We warmly welcome all local and international students with an interest in nature and animals.

Course Requirements

Prerequisite: 15 points from BIOSCI 206-208 Restriction: BIOSCI 320

Capabilities Developed in this Course

Capability 1: People and Place
Capability 2: Sustainability
Capability 3: Knowledge and Practice
Capability 4: Critical Thinking
Capability 5: Solution Seeking
Capability 6: Communication
Capability 7: Collaboration
Capability 8: Ethics and Professionalism
Graduate Profile: Bachelor of Science

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course, students will be able to:
  1. Describe diversity, relationships, whakapapa, evolution and features of Aotearoa's native land animals (Capability 1, 2 and 3)
  2. Identify native invertebrates such as pungawerewere (spiders) and pepeke (insects), and native vertebrates such as manu (birds) and moko (reptiles), using identification guides and keys. (Capability 2, 3 and 5)
  3. Create museum-quality collections of insects and recorded bird vocalisations, including finding, documenting, identifying, labelling, and databasing specimens. (Capability 2, 3, 6, 7 and 8)
  4. Apply field and software-based techniques to analyse the biodiversity and traits of terrestrial animals for diverse approaches, such as citizen science, natural history, conservation or theoretical research. (Capability 2, 3, 4 and 5)


Assessment Type Percentage Classification
Assignment: nature journal 15% Individual Coursework
Assignment: insect collection 25% Individual Coursework
Assignment: bird call analyses 25% Individual Coursework
Final Exam 35% Individual Coursework
Assessment Type Learning Outcome Addressed
1 2 3 4
Assignment: nature journal
Assignment: insect collection
Assignment: bird call analyses
Final Exam
Students must pass the practical (e.g. some assignments) and the theory (e.g. some assignments and exam) components independently to pass the course overall. 


Tuākana Science is a multi-faceted programme for Māori and Pacific students providing topic specific tutorials, one-on-one sessions, test and exam preparation and more. Explore your options at

Key Topics

Our course involves diverse ways of learning and knowing about Aotearoa's animals, including mātauranga Māori, natural history, ecology and taxonomy, and both theory and practical elements. 
- We have four 2-3 week lecture blocks on these animal groups: invertebrates (e.g. snails, worms, spiders), insects, reptiles and frogs, and birds. We focus entirely on native animals, especially those from our local region.
- In labs and fieldtrips we will learn insect and bird identification skills
- The nature journal assignment involves choosing a location (e.g. a spot on campus, in your garden, at the Botanic Gardens etc.),to document the place, identify the animals (e.g. insects, birds, leaflitter invertebrates), and explore the biological, ecological and cultural reasons why those animals are there. Each student will need to develop and submit their own nature journal, but you can make your observations in a small group, or individually. 
- The insect collection involves catching, pinning and identifying insects (we will lend you the equipment). 
- The bird vocalisation collection involves recording, identifying and analysing bird sounds, and uploading to citizen science platforms.
 - The Lecturers are Anne Gaskett (coordinator), Jacqueline Beggs, Greg Holwell, and Kristal Cain, plus some guest lectures from current PhD students, or past students now employed and working in native animal diversity, conservation, taxonomy etc. 

Special Requirements

There are no overnight trips. 

We have 2 optional day trips on Saturdays for insect and bird sound collections. We generally visit the Auckland Botanic Gardens, which has excellent accessible and inclusive facilities (e.g. paved surfaces, unisex single toilets, wheelchair access etc.), and another site in a Regional Park, e.g. Tawharanui. Contact the course coordinator to check on or arrange accessibility requirements, or ask about bringing accompanying persons, guide dogs etc. 

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 36 hours of lectures, 5 x 3hr labs, 2 x 8 hr daytime field trips, and ~5hrs per week of self-directed study.

Delivery Mode

Campus Experience

Attendance is expected at scheduled activities including labs and fieldtrips. Contact the course coordinator to check the accessibility and facilities available on the fieldtrips.

Lectures will be available as recordings. Other learning activities including labs and fieldtrips will not be available as recordings.

The activities for the course are scheduled as a standard weekly timetable. 

Learning 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.

We will lend you equipment for collecting and pinning insects, and provide all required lab equipment. We can also lend gear such as raincoats so you can enjoy and be comfortable on our fieldtrips.

There is no required textbook.

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.

Feedback is welcome anytime! 

Other Information

Thanks for considering enrolling in our course. We've designed the course we would have loved to have done when we were students! We are excited about teaching this course and look forward to meeting you. 

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 for potential plagiarism or other forms of academic misconduct, using computerised detection mechanisms.

Class Representatives

Class representatives are students tasked with representing student issues to departments, faculties, and the wider university. If you have a complaint about this course, please contact your class rep who will know how to raise it in the right channels. See your departmental noticeboard for contact details for your class reps.


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 people - nau mai, haere mai: tangata whenua, Pasifika, people with disabilities, from a refugee background, gender diverse, international, mature age, LGBTQITakatāpui+, parents and carers, part-time students - all welcome.

Contact the course coordinator to check the accessibility and facilities at our fieldtrips, or if you need to bring an accompanying person, a disability support dog, or to arrange anything we can do to facilitate your full participation and enjoyment of our course, and your academic success. Thanks for joining us - we look forward to meeting you.

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 course assessment continues to meet the principles of the University’s assessment policy. Some adjustments may need to be made in emergencies. You will be kept fully informed by your course co-ordinator/director, and if disruption occurs you should refer to the university website for information about how to proceed.

The delivery mode may change depending on COVID restrictions. Any changes will be communicated through Canvas.

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 students may be asked to submit 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. In exceptional circumstances changes to elements of this course may be necessary at short notice. Students enrolled in this course will be informed of any such changes and the reasons for them, as soon as possible, through Canvas.

Published on 06/11/2023 08:36 a.m.