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  • Marine Metre Squared is a New Zealand citizen science project that supports communities to monitor their local seashore. The project has been designed to provide meaningful, valid environmental baseline data on the state of seashores around New Zealand against which future changes can be measured.


    Reach: National

    Rights: New Zealand Marine Studies Centre, University of Otago

    Marine Metre Squared

    Marine Metre Squared is a New Zealand citizen science project that collects observational data about seashore life and allows you to compare your region with others over time. The project is managed by the New Zealand Marine Studies Centre, University of Otago.

    The aims of the Marine Metre Squared project are for participants to:

    • learn more about the animals and plants that live between the tides around New Zealand
    • collect valuable scientific information that will help build a picture of the biodiversity, distribution and abundance of seashore animals and plants in New Zealand’s marine environment
    • monitor change in this habitat over time and investigate what might be causing the change
    • make connections between scientists, educators, schools and community/iwi groups who care about their local seashore environment and want to look after it.

    Nature of science focus: Online citizen science (OCS) projects can be used to develop any of the Nature of Science (NoS) substrands. What is important is to identify aspects of NoS that your students need to be better at or understand more fully. Then frame your unit to be very clear about these things when you do them.

    Science capability focus: Gather and interpret data, Critique evidence, Interpret representations

    Science focus: Ecology – seashore species and habitats

    Some suggested science concepts:

    • Living things depend on one another and on the nonliving environment in which they live.
    • Environmental changes affect the survival of living organisms and the relationships among them.

    Many concepts could be learned – focusing on a few can often be more powerful. Develop your learning outcomes and success criteria from these concepts as well as the Nature of Science strand and the science capabilities.

    Some examples of learning outcomes:

    Students can:

    • explain the strengths and weaknesses of the quadrat data collection method
    • relate information presented on graphs to the evidence they gathered
    • compare animals’ adaptive features and explain their role in survival
    • describe how environmental changes affect the survival of living organisms and the relationships among them

    About Marine Metre Squared

    Literally, the statement Ngā Tini o te Waitai translates as “the multitudes of the sea water”. Waitai refers to salt water or sea water. Tini means crowds or a great number. Tini also connects to Tinirau, who in Māori myth descended from Tangaroa (the god of the sea) and is the father of fishes. Used in conjunction with the Marine Metre Squared name, it describes the environment and what we are hoping to understand and look after through this project.

    Marine Metre Squared website

    This New Zealand-based project encourages communities to monitor their local marine environment by collecting information about the diversity and abundance of the living organisms that exist between low and high tides. Managed by the NZ Marine Studies Centre at the University of Otago, citizens New Zealand wide take part in doing counts and uploading their data to this OCS project.

    Rights: Otago Science into Action

    Using a quadrat

    Students use a quadrat to measure marine species and abundance. Their data is then entered into the online citizen science platform Marine Metre Squared.

    Registering for MM2 is free and gives you access to the full New Zealand database and your own survey data. It is easy to compare your local shore to others in New Zealand using the site’s simple mapping and analysis tools. Support is available by email.

    A variety of useful resources are provided, including instructions for setting up the quadrat samples and species identification charts for different parts of New Zealand. There is also curriculum support for developing the science capabilities, including posters and unit examples.

    In 2017, MM2 was updated to support the Participatory Science Platform project Sediment and Seashores: What are the Consequences?

    Nature of science

    Using this OCS gives opportunities to discuss how NZ scientists might use collective data to monitor species over time, including population numbers and distributions. Students learn about their own local area and can compare their data to data from other parts of New Zealand. There are opportunities for conversations about the challenges for scientists in collecting large datasets themselves, the reliability of data collected and how scientists try to ensure the reliability of the data.

    Related content

    The Connected article Betty Batham: biologist is a graphic biography about Betty Batham – a pioneering female scientist and the founder of the New Zealand Marine Studies Centre in Otago. To be a scientist is a ready-to-use cross-curricular teaching resource that which uses the biography as the starting point.

    Find out more about a citizen science project using Marine Metre Squared to monitor the Otago Harbour. The Toheroa Abundance Project uses quadrat sampling to monitor toheroa populations in Northland.

    For all Hub resources on estuaries and seashore environments, including the significance of estuaries to Māori, marine animal adaptations and marine habitats, see our estuaries and oceans topics.

    The Ministry of Education’s Building Science Concepts series includes Book 21: Life between the Tides: Sandy Shores, Mudflats, and Rocky Shores and Book 22: Tidal Communities: Interdependence and the Effects of Change.

    This article lists a selection of unit plans and other teacher support materials grouped under possible teaching topics to support Seaweek.

    Explore New Zealand’s Sustainable Seas National Science Challenge and their ecosystem-based management (EBM) system in this article and activity.

    The iNaturalist online citizen science project uses Seek, a species identification app.

    Here are some planning tips for when you intend to use a citizen science project with your students.

    Useful links

    Find out more about using Marine Metre Squared to develop students’ science capability Critique evidence on the TKI website.

    This classroom module for marine biosecurity is designed for years 5-8 to help them understand the role they play in protecting our coastlines. It is provided in both Google Docs and as printable PDFs so that it's easy for teachers to use. Part 3 uses the Marine Metre Squared project.

    Seaweek, organised by the New Zealand Association for Environmental Education (NZAEE), is held annually to promote learning about, in and for our oceans.

    iNaturalist has a species identification app.

    The Department of Conservation has extensive resources about experiencing, monitoring and restoring estuaries.


    This outline was written as part of Victoria University of Wellington’s Citizen Scientists in the Classroom project funded by the Ministry of Education’s Teaching & Learning Research Initiative.

      Published 25 March 2019 Referencing Hub articles
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