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Biodiversity, Guardianship, and the Natural History of New Zealand: A Museum Perspective

Learn how the natural history of Aotearoa has shaped its unique biodiversity, Māori culture and the values of New Zealanders.

A Kea, an alpine parrot. It has mottled moss green feathers, and is displaying the underside of one wing which has a bright orange-red streak. it sits on a snowy mountainside

Trace how natural history shaped New Zealand biodiversity, culture & landscapes

Aotearoa New Zealand is a land of fascinating natural wonders, founded on a geological and environmental history spanning 85 million years.

On this two-week course, you’ll gain an overview of New Zealand’s natural history, exploring how the geology, wildlife, and culture of the islands are interconnected.

Guided by the Learning Team at Te Papa Tongarewa, the National Museum of New Zealand, you’ll examine relevant artefacts and exhibits to contextualise your understanding of natural history, conservation, and New Zealand culture.

Discover how earthquakes and volcanic activity have imprinted on Māori culture

Māori knowledge is intrinsically connected with the wild forces experienced on the island.

You’ll learn how Māori mythology explained these phenomena and find out how creation stories have helped reinforce a spiritual connection to the land.

Explore how tectonic forces have impacted New Zealand’s biodiversity

The forces that shaped Aotearoa’s landscape also had a profound effect on the plants and animals populating these islands.

You’ll investigate the niche shift that occurred in New Zealand to produce the island’s biodiversity, examining the native birds of New Zealand and a land free of native mammals.

Examine animal conservation in Aotearoa

The arrival of humans in Aotearoa decimated habitats and species at an alarming rate. It is no surprise that, as a response, conservation and guardianship of native animals has become integral to Māori culture and Aotearoa values today.

You’ll be introduced to various conservation projects and reflect on the shared national responsibility to protect the island’s biodiversity.

By the end of this course, you’ll be able to track the geological evolution of New Zealand, explaining how the landscape and its wildlife have shaped cultural values.

Syllabus

  • Week 1

    Shaky Isles

    • Introduction

      Introduction to the course content and structure, and to your fellow learners.

    • Shaky Isles

      An introduction to the tectonic and geothermic forces behind the creation of New Zealand, and how the land has been in constant motion for millions of years, shaping the land over time.

    • Our Land

      A look at the ways New Zealanders connect to their Shaky Isles. The Pūrākau (Māori legends) around them, the role of the museum in education, and the ways we protect our people and taonga (treasures) from these mighty forces.

    • Week 1 Reflection

      Let's reflect on what we have learned this week.

  • Week 2

    Land of Birds

    • Introduction

      Introduction to Week 2 of the course

    • Alien Islands

      A brief introduction to the unique biodiversity of Aotearoa New Zealand that makes it so starkly different to anywhere else on Earth.

    • Kaitiaki | Guardians

      We cover what the arrival of humans meant for New Zealands previously undisturbed biodiversity, and what the community, and the National Museum, are doing today to protect it.

    • Reflection

      Lets reflect on what we've covered in Week 1.

When would you like to start?

Start straight away and join a global classroom of learners. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

  • Available now

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Identify the geological causes for Aotearoa New Zealand’s topography and volcanic activity
  • Explain what makes Aotearoa New Zealand’s flora and fauna so unique
  • Explore some of the key ways in which conservationists are protecting New Zealand’s biodiversity
  • Reflect on the ways a museum is an important place for learning and kaitiakitanga (guardianship)

Who is the course for?

This course is designed for anyone with an interest in the Pacific region, museums, science, history, culture, or the arts.

It is particularly suitable for international or NZ students who want to gain an introductory insight into New Zealand history and culture.

Who will you learn with?

Mel is part of the Learning Team within Te Papa Tongarewa. She has a background in science, education & communication and has worked with researchers and curators to create these courses for you.

Who developed the course?

Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

Te Papa’s vision for the future is to change hearts, minds, and lives.

Our role is to be a forum for the nation to present, explore, and preserve the heritage of its cultures and knowledge of the natural environment. Te Papa was established with this role by the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa Act 1992.

  • Established

    1992
  • Location

    Wellington, Aotearoa (New Zealand)
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