Ecology in Action

A rigorous field-based program with a focus on practical skills and conceptual thinking, along with opportunities to contribute to local conservation and resource management initiatives.

Students have the option of a full 15 week Semester program or a shorter 5 week Summer program.

A Message from the Department of Natural Resources and Environment

“The magic of EcoQuest is the personal journey—quite simply, I have never known a student unchanged after their return from New Zealand. The personal and academic growth is self-evident and manifests itself in focused pursuit of academic and professional goals. Students return announcing “I am ready, challenge me!” 

Semester Program

15 Weeks, 16 Credits, 4 Courses

The catch-phrase ‘Ecology in Action’ is a fitting description for the programs we have run for 21 years. The EcoQuest Ecology in Action Aotearoa semester programs are delivered from the mountains to the sea, in a variety of ecosystems in both te Ika a Maui (the North Island) and te Waipounamu (the South Island).

Our interactive field-based programs incorporate hands-on, experiential learning opportunities and a focus on both practical skills and conceptual thinking. 

EcoQuest gives students the chance to gain and develop transferable knowledge and skills to make a difference anywhere on the globe. 

Directed research projects are comprehensive field-based studies that equip students with the knowledge and skills required to become effective, modern researchers. All research projects in which EcoQuest engages, have scientific and societal relevance. Projects enable students to make significant contributions to (often longitudinal) research, benefiting the environment, local communities, collaborators and partners. 

student snorkelling at the Poor Knights marine reserve

Summer Program

5 Weeks, 8 Credits, 2 Courses & 3 Islands: an unforgettable Summer Program in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Our five-week summer program provides an unequalled opportunity to gain academic credits while working toward sustainable solutions for the management of natural resources. 

All learning opportunities offered by EcoQuest are packaged into a curriculum framework which addresses ecology and environmental policy pertaining to the real-life case studies and span the full spectrum of restoration opportunities on offshore islands in the Hauraki Gulf, New Zealand's largest marine embayment. 

Since 1999, Ponui Island and Tiritiri Matangi Island have been core destinations for the Summer Program. Tiritiri Matangi  was one of the earliest predator-free islands in the Hauraki Gulf. Restoration of this island ecosystem is well-advanced. It is now one of a large – and still growing – number of islands from which introduced mammals have been removed.

During the 5-week program we incorporate one or more of the other islands in our field trip schedule (in addition to Ponui and Tiritiri Matangi). The islands are integral to the meta-habitat that the Hauraki Gulf provides. Understanding ownership and governance models of these islands is part of our learning.  

We have at least one overnight stay on a marae which allows a glimpse into Māori culture and traditions.

Field Centre

The Ecology in Action program is based at our Field Centre on the western shore of Tikapa Moana the Firth of Thames, in the small rural coastal settlement of Whakatīwai (one hour southeast of Auckland), in the rohe (tribal territory) of Ngāti Paoa & Ngāti Whanaunga, just 300 metres south of the Wharekawa Marae. 

The field centre is bordered by the Whakatīwai stream to the north, and the Hūnua ranges form the backdrop to the west. We look east across the Firth, a shallow marine embayment, to the rugged  hills of the Coromandel Peninsula

The home base for the South Island SAFSA program is in Golden Bay at The Sandcastle in Pohara, in the rohe of Ngāti Tama, Ngāti Rārua and Te Ātiawa and close to Onetahua marae. From here it is just a 500m walk to the sandy beach of Te Tai-o-Aorere Tasman Bay.

EcoQuest has established a vibrant sustainable learning community. Since programs are residential, students and some staff live on site. 

Student accommodation is in cabins with 2-3 students per cabin and there are shared bathroom facilities. A separate house provides a student lounge and several rooms for study spaces. The wharekai (literally the eating house) is our main communal building which doubles as a classroom and dining room. This building is situated to make the most of the open space and sun, and students often spend time outside on the large deck. The gardens provide lots of room for play, lounging in hammocks, and for growing vegetables and fruit. There is on-site accommodation for some staff and visiting faculty.

The field centre is a microcosm of decision making, as well as understanding and modelling sustainability. Students are involved in growing food, maintaining the plantings (food for people, food for native species, biodiversity values, amenity values).All chores are shared (e.g. cooking, cleaning, caring for the grounds and equipment).

Students are an active part of a learning community where sustainability is a guiding principle. They are empowered to become catalysts for change and for sustainable living.

Cabins at the field centre
Students on the front deck by the classroom
Students enjoy hammocks outside grannies.
A view from Whakatiwai across the Firth of Thames
Students relaxing outside Grannies

Social Activities

There are many opportunities for social activities, both at and away from the field centre. 

The hiking trails in the nearby Hūnua Ranges are popular, and kayaking ranks highly. 

At EcoQuest, there is  space for volleyball, soccer and Frisbee as well as a climbing wall. It is also just a short bike ride to the local store. 

Within three hours of travel from EcoQuest, you will find protected offshore island sanctuaries, varied coastal-marine environments, extensive rural landscapes, wetlands, volcanoes and forested mountains, as well as towns and cities. 

During non-program time students often take  the opportunity to explore national and regional parks, reserves, beaches, and towns further afield ,and we are only an hour from Hobbiton!


This product has been added to your cart