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  • Rights: The University of Waikato Te Whare Wānanga o Waikato
    Published 4 June 2021 Referencing Hub media

    Select here to view links to the scientists and stories highlighted in this video.

    Exploring involves discovering new things such as new knowledge. Observing involves using our senses to look at objects, environments, interactions or events carefully. Recording in the form of labelled diagrams is often important. Observing and exploring go hand in hand because, in order to explore new subjects or new ideas, observation is a key tool.

    This may involve using tools like a magnifying glass, telescope or microscope to extend our senses. Students may be asked to observe a chemical reaction, the movement of waves in a coastal bay, constellations and the Moon, strata on a field trip or the adaptations of a mussel.

    Activities that use exploring and observation

    Examples of kairangahau Māori and scientists using exploring and observing as part of their research

    In the video Kauri dieback: Death in the Ngahere, Dr Stanley Bellgard discusses the microscopic nature of the disease and what they do to observe it.

    Research studying the impacts on Rotorua’s natural geothermal taonga has been using local observational data. This data has provided scientists validation, and they are more confident in their predictions.



    Exploring is the act of doing something in order to discover new information. Observing involves using our senses to carefully and systematically examine objects or events. Observing and exploring go hand in hand because, in order to explore new subjects or new ideas, observation is a key tool.


    Observation is a critical part of being a scientist. Observation is not just about what you can see with your eyes, but for me, it’s using all your senses.

    So it’s a chance to reflect, to pause, if you like. The things we do like taking measurements and handling animals – it’s a chance to just step back a wee bit and say, what can I see? What can I hear? What can I feel?


    I think observation is a key element that drives you into wanting to do research. You make an observation and you think that’s a bit strange, I didn’t notice that last time. So I would say that most research scientists are usually very observant people.


    When observing, we carefully record our findings. For example, this may be in the form of tables, labelled diagrams or detailed notes.

    Observing and exploring may involve using tools – like a magnifying glass, microscope or telescope.

    Different tools allow us to extend our senses.

    Video acknowledgements and links to stories

    Identifying moths. The students of Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Ōtepoti, Dr Barbara Anderson and Ahi Pepe MothNet.
    Observation in science. Professor Alison Cree, University of Otago
    The pollination problem. Jenny Ladley, University of Canterbury
    Macroinvertebrate sampling from Stream health monitoring and assessment interactive. Jordan and Lucy, Fairfield Intermediate School, and Jake and Sarah, Bankwood Primary School
    Double trouble from caldera volcanoes Rotorua and Ōhakuri. Associate Professor Darren Gravley, University of Canterbury
    Fat skink, thin skink. Dr Kelly Hare, University of Waikato
    Settlement of crabs on reef habitats. Dr Jenni Stanley, University of Waikato
    Visual habitat assessment from Stream health monitoring and assessment interactive. Hannah, Jess and Sam, Waikato Diocesan School for Girls
    Observation in science in the activity Observation: learning to see. Emeritus Professor Phil Bishop, University of Otago
    Working as an ecologist. Associate Professor Candida Savage, University of Otago
    Rapid response to the Rena. Bay of Plenty Polytechnic and The University of Waikato. Filmed by Tessa Blackett, Homespun Productions
    Galileo with his telescope in Venice, Wellcome Collection. CC BY 4.0
    Rhabdothamnus research from Decline of birds and pollination. Professor Dave Kelly, University of Canterbury
    Kowhai-ngutu-kaka. Clianthus puniceus, circa 1885, New Zealand, by Sarah Featon. Purchased 1919. Te Papa (1992-0035-2277/71)
    Fungi, unidentified species, 24 April 1961, by Nancy Adams. Purchased 2007. © Te Papa. CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. Te Papa (CA000895/001/0003)
    Miro longipes (North Island robin). Myiomoira toitas (North Island tomtit). Now known as Petroica longipes (North Island robin). Petroica macrocephala toitoi (North island tomtit), 1865–1885, by John Buchanan. Te Papa (1992-0035-2279/48)
    The longest flight. Associate Professor Phil Battley, Massey University (more on Dr Battley’s research can be viewed in Tracking godwits)
    Bathyscope footage from Benefits of environmental education
    Identifying moths. Dr Robert Hoare, Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research (further resources with Dr Hoare around moths, observation and classification can be found here)
    Making neurons glow from Exploring with microscopes. Associate Professor Rebecca Campbell, University of Otago
    Planet hunting. Professor Denis Sullivan, Victoria University of Wellington
    Looking at the brain with MRI, Dr Richard Watts, Yale University

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