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  • The free Find-A-Pest app makes it easy to report and identify possible pest species. Wherever you are, you can help protect Aotearoa New Zealand’s primary industries and native species in two simple steps, just SNAP IT – SEND IT.

    We’re guardians. We’re kaitiaki. We’re all responsible for protecting Aotearoa from pests and diseases.

    Rights: Find-A-Pest


    Find-A-Pest, based at the University of Canterbury, is a collaborative project between the Department of Conservation, Ministry for Primary Industries, regional councils, Māori biosecurity organisation Te Tira Whakamātaki and primary industry groups including Horticulture New Zealand, New Zealand Wine, New Zealand Forest Owners Association, Kiwifruit Vine Health, Summerfruit NZ and New Zealand Apples & Pears. The app was initially developed as a collaboration between scientists at Scion and Lincoln University, with support from the BioHeritage National Science Challenge.


    Apps: Apple Store and Google Play.

    Reach: New Zealand

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

    Science capability focus: Gather and interpret data, Engage with science.

    Science focus: Classification, biodiversity, ecology, biosecurity.

    Some suggested science concepts:

    • Science learning is based on evidence collected by making observations.
    • Citizen scientists collect data to help identify environmental issues of concern.
    • This project is an example of scientists working collaboratively.
    • The importance of biosecurity – get students thinking about protecting our environment.
    • Biodiversity and the balance of ecosystems.

    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:

    • accurately gather and log data
    • develop their observation skills
    • participate in protecting our environment
    • understand the impact of pest species on our primary industries
    • identify some pest plant and animal species
    • explain the impact of pests on native biodiversity
    • consider and discuss biosecurity and its role in Aotearoa New Zealand.

    You could extend student learning by looking at socio-scientific issues related to pest control such as 1080.

    Not only is the app a tool for anyone who cares about New Zealand’s environment, Find-A-Pest is a handy educational resource you can use anywhere, with fact sheets on specific pests which are threats to New Zealand’s biosecurity. It uses artificial intelligence (AI) to identify pests and provide information where the pest is found and how it flourishes, with a team of experts who confirm identifications and send feedback to users.

    Associate Professor Steve Pawson, University of Canterbury

    About Find-A-Pest

    The Find-A-Pest phone app was first launched in 2018 but was rebuilt and redesigned in 2023 to make it easier to report and identify any possible pest species. It presents users with simple options to report any potential pests, including weeds, insects, fungi or aquatic or terrestrial animals. This enables users to participate in the Ko Tātou | This Is Us movement of all New Zealanders contributing to biosecurity.

    It is an easy-to-use app with observations made by simply taking a photo. Fact sheets in the app provide information about identification, habitat and damage caused by pests.

    Rights: Find-A-Pest

    The hunt for invasive pests goes digital

    Use the Find-A-Pest app to hunt for invasive pests in Aotearoa – described as the Pokémon Go raid battle alternative for Kiwis!

    To report any suspected pest sighting, simply click the ‘Report a Pest’ button on the home screen or from any fact sheet.

    The developers say that Find-A-Pest is unique among pest reporting apps used worldwide in that it not only allows citizens to make pest observations but also allows users to help with rapid identifications. Anyone with a mobile phone can snap and send to help protect New Zealand’s primary industries and native species.

    New Zealand’s unique plants and animals developed in isolation, making the flora and fauna only found here more susceptible to pests. Find-A-Pest can be used to help protect New Zealand’s unique environment and exports, which rely heavily on plants, and require a strong biosecurity system.

    The app helps build the database of information about pests and their spread, so anyone using Find-A-Pest is boosting New Zealand’s biosecurity intelligence. Reports from around the country can assist the many organisations involved in controlling and managing invasive pests, from central and local government, through to industry groups, producers and communities.

    Project Manager Abigail Evans, University of Canterbury

    Making an observation

    The quickest way to make an observation is to click ‘Report this pest’ on the app’s home page – just add a photo and send it in.

    You can also search through the fact sheets in each section to find out more about pests and send in an observation from there.

    Rights: Find-A-Pest

    Using the Find-A-Pest app

    This shows how easy it is to use the Find-A-Pest app fact sheet section, using the plant pest Chilean needle grass (Nassella neesiana) as an example.

    Find out more about this pest plant and plans to identify and control it on the NZ Landcare Trust | Ngā Matapopore Whenua website.

    You will receive feedback on your observation, which will show in the activity tab in the app.

    If you need help with the Find-A-Pest app or have questions, email

    Related content

    Read about the Predator Free New Zealand initiative.

    Discover more about New Zealand’s unique ecology and the uniqueness of New Zealand plants.

    Citizen science

    Invasive animals in cities looks at a study to investigate the number of invasive mammals in Wellington. This case study and unit plan cover how one teacher used this OCS project to help her students develop their understanding about the skills scientists use while also letting them engage in a real-life investigation. A central part of this OCS project was the importance of using and training artificial intelligence.

    Many other online citizen science projects use citizen scientists’ data to help machine learning algorithms – see some examples here.

    After your students have participated in this project, you could join in the iNaturalist online citizen science project – a species identification app. The Connected article The war on weeds describes how school students used this app to help scientists combat the spread of weeds.

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

    See these helpful webinars: Getting started with citizen science and Online citizen science.


    New Zealand needs to up its biosecurity game to protect the country from the next devastating pest threat, writes Dr Ang McGaughran in this article from The Conversation.

    The Science Learning Hub team has curated a collection of resources with biosecurity as the context for learning. Log in to make this collection part of your private collection – just click on the copy icon. You can then add additional content and notes, share and collaborate. Find out more about creating collections.

    Activity ideas

    Can we make New Zealand pest-free? is a series of lesson plans that involve students in the quest to conserve our native species.

    In the activity Making a tracking tunnel, students monitor the presence of pest species in a neighbouring gully or their school grounds.

    Careful observation is an important part of science, as outlined in the activity Observation: learning to see.

    Professional learning development

    The recorded webinars Taking action for conservation, Pest detectives, Eco-explorers and Tame Malcolm – indigenous pest management can help teachers scaffold student learning opportunities and ecological investigations.

    Useful links

    Visit the Ko Tātou | This Is Us website. Think about how biosecurity protects our way of life, the outdoor environment where we fish, farm, hunt and explore, the beautiful biodiversity of our unique ecosystem and even the food we eat.

    If you are confident that you have found a pest species that is new to New Zealand, please call Biosecurity New Zealand free on 0800 80 99 66.


    This was written with the support of Keith Lyons, BioHeritage, and Abigail Evans, Find-A-Pest.

      Published 14 March 2024 Referencing Hub articles
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