Students from around the Waikato tested their science skills at a BioBlitz at Lake Rotopiko last month.

National Wetland Trust of New Zealand and Manaaki Whenua/Landcare Research hosted the event — New Zealand's first wetland BioBlitz.

The aim of the two-day event was to record a snapshot of species present at the peat lake near Ohaupo.

A group of scientists and volunteer experts helped the public collect a wide range of plants, fungi and animals.

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The data provides important information to the National Wetland Trust, Department of Conservation and Waipa District Council.

Co-ordinator Monica Peters says it was a good chance for the public to learn from scientists about different species and to see how samples are collected and identified.
"It's really interesting to see the diversity of species living in these remnant pockets of nature in a largely farmed landscape," she says.

"It's a nice thing to get the public more aware of what is right on their backdoor step — both to appreciate what lives there but also as a beautiful place to visit."

The first day of the BioBlitz welcomed students from Te Pahu School, Hamilton East School, St Patrick's Catholic School, the Kiwi Conservation Club, Kirikiriroa Explorers Club and Ohaupo School.

Students enjoyed learning about epiphytes in an activity run by University of Waikato research assistant Catherine Kirby and Wintec arboriculture tutor Andrew Harrison.

An epiphyte is an organism that grows on the surface of a plant and derives its moisture and nutrients from the air, rain, water or from debris accumulating around it.

Co-ordinator Monica Peters and daughter Rubymei Mason check out a white fringed weevil.
Co-ordinator Monica Peters and daughter Rubymei Mason check out a white fringed weevil.

With a GoPro attached to his helmet, Andrew climbed a tree and streamed footage of epiphytes to the children looking at the iPad from the ground.

Catherine says the activity was popular with the school students.

"It's all about capturing the kids' imaginations and teaching them about special plants," she says.

BioBlitz events began in New Zealand in 2004, with Manaaki Whenua/Landcare Research scientist Peter Buchanan wanting to create a better connection with science and the public. Since then more than 20 events have been held throughout the country.

Every BioBlitz is dependent on the location, resource and event objects but they all share the common goal of scientists sharing with visitors what they have discovered at the site.