Mudflat Ecology

At the very edge of the land, the estuary seethes with life. Bacteria, mud worms, crabs, migrating fish, mangroves and oystercatchers – a fascinating ecosystem has evolved in the mud flats of New Zealand’s 300 estuaries. This fragile habitat is vulnerable to time and tide, and to erosion, pollution and other effects of human activity.

Mudflats are often dismissed by people as ugly, messy environments only useful for dumping waste or reclamation. The reality is that they are populated by diverse, highly productive communities adapted to cope with the daily changes caused by tidal cycles. They are also invaluable buffer zones between land and sea and essential habitat for juvenile fish.


Guided exploration; Identification game (juniors) to learn important species; Games (juniors) to gain appreciation of relationships; Monitoring of whelk behaviour; Transects to survey population and community patterns; Collection of physical data; Discussion of human impacts on estuaries.

Curriculum and assessment:

Living World
AS 90925, AS 91153, AS 91158, AS 91155, AS 91157 AS 91158, AS 91157 AS 91601 AS 91602

Mudflat Ecology


An estuary is an area of water on the coast, where fresh water and sea water mix. It often forms at the mouth of a river, with large mud flats where the tides wash in and out. It is a unique home for many animals and a few plants.

Their ecosystems are diverse and highly productive but under threat because estuaries have always attracted settlement by people. For Māori, estuaries were valuable food-gathering places. But as European settlement grew, farms, towns and cities began to pollute the estuaries. The land was also filled in for projects such as sewerage works and rubbish dumps. Māori protested, and there are now rules about protecting estuaries and people are aware of how important it is to keep estuaries healthy.

Choice of Activities

  • Explore the mudflats to complete focus questions and species list.
  • Identification game (juniors) to learn important species
  • Games (juniors) to gain appreciation of relationships
  • Transects to survey population and community patterns;
  • Discuss environmental conditions in relation to adaptations and community/population patterns
  • Collection of physical data eg; exposure, mud texture, temperature variation
  • Population age structure study
  • Productivity study
  • Monitoring of bird behaviour
  • Investigation of whelk behaviour
  • Discussion : human impacts on mudflats

Curriculum and assessment:

Learning area strand: Living World
Key Competencies: Relating to others, thinking


AS 90925 1.1 Carry out a practical investigation in a biological context with direction
AS 91153 2.1 Carry out a practical investigation in a biology context with supervision.
AS 91154 2.2 Analyse the biological validity of information presented to the public
AS 91155 2.3 Demonstrate understanding of adaptation of plants and animals to their way of life
AS 91157 2.5 Demonstrate understanding of genetic variation and change
AS 91158 2.6 Investigate a pattern in an ecological community with supervision.
AS 91601 3.1 Carry out a practical investigation in a biological context with guidance
AS 91602 3.2 Integrate biological knowledge to develop an informed response to a socio-scientific issue

Mudflat Ecology

2020 Prices from

Number of Students
Cost per head

This includes

  • Research, planning, bookings and organisation
  • Facilitation
  • Activities as specified in ininerary
  • Letter to parents
  • RAMS form
  • Gear list
  • A master copy of worksheets
  • Use of specialized equipment
  • GST
  • Saving you a great deal of time and hassle

Not included:

  • Transport (bus, to and from school). Ask us to quote if you don’t have access to your own.
  • Class set of worksheets – it’s more cost effective for you to copy these at school.


Q1. Why do teachers choose to tour with Learning Journeys?

Using an outside provider like Learning Journeys allows you to avoid stress and save time to focus on the core demands of teaching and have more time with your family and friends.
  • Trips are well tried and tested and our local knowledge, New Zealand-wide, is extensive. • We’ll facilitate your trip as well as planning, recce-ing AND booking it (including transport, food and accommodation). Have as much or as little input as you want.
  • Our facilitators are secondary geography or science teachers with years of classroom as well as EOTC experience.
  • Trips are curriculum linked and can include NCEA assessment tasks.
  • RAMS forms, parents letters, gear lists and worksheets developed and provided for you.
  • We’re Qualmarked (Tourism New Zealand has checked us out as a safe, professional, company) and Dept. of Conservation approved.

Q2. Does it cost more for Learning Journeys to organise and run my school's science and geography trips?

Yes it does cost a little more per student. However, you need to factor in the time you'll save by using Learning Journeys. You will also save the cost of relief for staff who would otherwise have come from your school, since Learning Journeys will provide one or more facilitators who will contribute to staff-student ratios.

Q3. What about risk management?

Safety is always paramount in our trip planning and delivery. We are acutely aware of the responsibility of being entrusted with other people’s children. We will provide you with RAMS forms for all activities included in your programme.

Our Health and Safety Plan deals with every aspect of our operations and training. Hazard identification is carried out for every new activity and a RAMS (Risk Analysis and Management System) form is prepared. This process has been audited both by a Department of Conservation approved Safety Auditor and as part of our Qualmark® accreditation

Our teacher-facilitators are trained in safe practice and all have First Aid qualifications. The suppliers we use are fully qualified and experienced in their specialist areas and where available we choose to work with Qualmarked® operators. Their sound safety records are further guaranteed by the Qualmark®, accreditation process.
Qualmark® is New Zealand tourism's official mark of quality. All accommodation and tourism businesses carrying the Qualmark® have been independently assessed as professional and trustworthy, so you can book and buy with confidence.

Q4. Who are your facilitators?

Our trips are managed and facilitated by qualified science or social science secondary teachers with classroom experience as well as many years’ experience in the field.

Q5. How long have you been running field trips for New Zealand secondary students?

Since 2001. Our oldest client did 12 consecutive yearly 3 day trips to Goat Island and Tiritiri Matangi Island. Most other schools repeat trips year after year.
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Tour Length
1 day
Years 7 - 13
Auckland, Tauranga, Whakatane, Raglan
Trip dates
By arrangement
Free teacher
For every 10 paying students
Minimum group size
10 Students
Price for 35+ students
From $35 incl. GST
Valid until December 2020
Make a booking Contact us