Neighbourhood Biology

Activities Network

Check here for some of the latest in local environmental or ecological projects. Some are just ideas. Others are already underway. Some feature a Neighbourhood Biology approach. Others do not. Some are suggestions for "first response" to a situation, with provision for collecting information about an issue. Others are ongoing monitoring or surveys about some aspect of local ecology.

But they all are community based, involving local people. And they are modelled to be a type of "action research" -- activities which develop local knowledge which then influence activities in another round of developing further knowledge.

Tell us what you are doing! Send us your ideas!

  • Explain your idea/project in approx 150-200 words
  • Where is it happening or could happen
  • Include an email address as a contact

Activity network

What are dogs really doing for birds where you live?

Is 'Life a Beach' for our shellfish and coastal fishes?

Every summer, many New Zealanders will move to the coast. Some popular areas will become canvas cities for a short time between Christmas and New Year. A very large proportion of these visitors will spend much of their time fishing or gathering shellfish. How does this large annual influx of pressure affect these resources? Are there post-holiday impacts on the local communities?

Fisheries regulations in New Zealand do not readily address the potential problem of seasonal stripping. Is it a problem? My opinion is that we don't know.

Neighbourhood Biology can address these questions though, and I suggest that some communities do a survey of selected fish and shellfish before and after the holidays. If we get enough data from around the country, we may be able to say whether we should be concerned or not.

For advice on how to survey,

contact Ken Grange, Manager NIWA, Nelson at

For other resources on doing surveys of shellfish on beaches

1) Adopt-a-Beach
contact Ministry of Fisheries, Auckland

2) Community Guide to Monitoring a Cockle Population
contact Ministry of Fisheries, Dunedin

3) Shellfish of Soft Shores:
introductory neighbourhood biology projects for sandy beaches and bays email


To send a New Zealand team to international conference in Canada, Aug 98

This year, Coastal Zone Canada 98 is the third of a series of international conferences held to advance community based integrated coastal management. It builds on the work of two previous conferences by creating a working forum identifying the range of alternatives at the community level. The format of the week long meeting will emphasize interactive workshops, round tables and innovative communication sessions.

We at NBio believe that a team of New Zealand community based workers should be there. Part of that team will be young people, already involved in local ecology. We as a country have much to share and also much to learn.

Being at this conference is important to community environmental/ecological workers for a number of reasons. Working locally these days in New Zealand means working at the cutting edge. This is hard work, often in a very small group, with a minimum of resources, against a national backdrop charged with economic worry and pessimism. To meet new people, to hear new stories of what is accomplished in other places, to learn more techniques and skills would be a powerful catalyst for the New Zealand efforts.

In turn, we as a New Zealand team would bring our skills, our tales of initiatives and innovations, many of which catch the ear of people throughout the world. Our presence can mend that sense of isolation on all sides, which often hampers local efforts.

The NBio website will be covering events from the conference. We hope to be able to arrange this coverage via the internet, as it happens.

Sponsorship is needed to get six people to Canada. Being workers outside the usual agencies of government and university, in community groups often without funding for development of staff, the team looks to private and corporate donations as the chief means of finance. The conference organisers are working to secure some funding, but it is uncertain how much can be received from that source.

For more information, or to make a donation or a suggestion, contact Mary Gardner  


Alert: are there baby pipi on your beach in upper North Island (including Auckland area)?
place: all sandy shores

The research team headed by Bob Creese at the Leigh Marine Lab want to know. The breeding habits of pipi are something of a mystery.

It's known that the shellfish reproduce by releasing eggs and sperm into the sea over the summertime. The young travel a while and then settle down on a beach, usually quite high up on the shore. These will be quite small, say 5 to 15 or 20 mm in size. Having just settled, they are called recruits. Their growth can be
easily measured by recording changes in size of shells. But spawning seems irregular and recruits do not appear on every beach in large numbers every year.

There is talk that this summer of 97-98 is a bumper year and that large numbers of pipi recruits are being found on beaches.

Please help us by checking your beach now. Walk along the high to mid tide mark, near pipi beds and away from them. And contact us, even if you do not find any pipi recruits. Where they are not is as important as where they are. In your email send us name the beach the places you found them what size they are date you found them your name, address and phone number.

If you have the time, we would really appreciate it if you could make a quick sample count.

Take an empty 2 litre ice cream container, turn it upside down and press it into the sand to about a depth of 2-3 centimetres. When you lift the container, you will have a square marked out in the sand. Count the number of recruits you find only in that space. Do this 2-3 times, picking 2-3 places in the bed where these recruits live.

Send the information asap to Bob Creese at or snail mail c/o Leigh Marine Lab, Leigh.

Thanks a lot. We'll use this Nbio website to let you know what we find out.


Helping injured/sick fur seals on West Coast of Auckland

Fur seals are becoming more common on the West Coast, outside of Auckland. Jo Ritchies of DoC Auckland says "People need to get used to sharing the beaches with them"

1) always keep your distance and

2) never go between seals and the sea

3) remember seals come on the sand or the rocks to rest

And people on beaches can help with injured/sick seals in the following ways:

1) if you find a hurt or sick seal, ring DoC marine mammal hotline : give location, size and condition of seal and any other details

2) If you find a small seal alone in the spring, looking poorly, it is likely to be a youngster who is just starting life on its own. Although it is weaned, it may not be feeding itself very well because it hasn’t learned all the tricks yet. About 45% of baby seals die in the first year. Unless the seal is injured, let it rest. Visit it regularly, watch how it gets on, take photos and keep DoC informed.

3) If you find a youngster with a plastic strap or noose around its neck, ring DoC. It’s very hard for DoC to get everywhere so consider setting up a first response team and kit in your community. Have a few people on a phone tree, to contact if need arises.

Then collect a strong fishing net with a good handle, a number of tin snips, garden clippers, kitchen shears, pocket knives, some leather garden gloves and boots. When the situation arises, a team of two can net a small seal and cut off the plastic noose. When the seal is in the net, hold it down securely by standing with one foot on net and the other on its head. Boots are essential footwear.

Ring DoC afterwards and keep them informed.


Understanding the life cycle of local shellfish

Shellfish! food for many creatures, including humans. In their thousands, they are important organisms that filter the waters in many coastal areas.

What are the most important shellfish on your local beach? When do they spawn? When do young shellfish (recruits) settle? How often?

For all the importance of local shellfish in our lives, we know very little about how they live and reproduce at each of our beaches. How can we harvest any shellfish without knowing this? How can we discharge into coastal waters without understanding the effect on shellfish lives and reproduction?

We can start to get this information together by means of ongoing shellfish monitoring. Polluted shellfish as well as those considered safe to eat are equally important to study.

At this time, there are two levels of monitoring to do. The first level can be done by a small team of locals who take regular walks on beaches, looking for young shellfish settling on beach. They also would take samples of shellfish (monthly, fortnightly or weekly according to time of year) and simply open them, looking for different visible signs of development of eggs and sperm.

The second level can be done by a more committed person or team, and involves making assessments of eggs and sperm on a microscopic level. This requires some training at a secondary or tertiary level.

Information from different beaches will be networked nationally.

For more information about this project email us.


Collecting oral histories about local ecology

Just how have things changed over time where you live? Most places, neighbourhoods and catchments in this country have little if any written records about environmental and ecological changes. What information there is exists in the stories local people can tell.

Even as anecdotes, these are important data. There are ways to use this information in understanding the past and being able to choose a future.

Bringing these stories out in the open can be as simple as holding a storytelling session about changes in fishing over time as folks did recently in Pauatahanui Inlet, near Porirua. Or, as in Blueskin Bay, oral history collection can be a year long project, involving a full time community worker. The aim there is to identify changes concerning subsistence processes in the catchment.

It can be an event, as in Takapuna, a while ago, when long term residents met with high school students and talked about changes in the Wairau Creek. Teenagers were astonished that the local concrete waterway was once a favourite swimming hole and fishing/shellfishing area.

We’d like to encourage local people to use oral history techniques to develop knowledge about their local places. We want to hear about how different people go about doing this.

If you want to know more or if you want to report your experiences, please email us.



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