Tauranga, NZ – Sunday, May 5, 2019
Luke B. and Kaitlyn T.
As the saying goes, “Ain’t no rest for the wicked”, we Lakers experienced a day full of adventures. Our day started at 5:00 AM with a hike up Mount Maunganui to watch the stunning New Zealand sunrise. We were the complete opposite of bright eyed and bushy tailed, knowing the long day ahead of us. *New Zealand fun fact: Mount Maunganui is the first place to see the sunrise each day!* After a long, treacherous uphill battle, and our bus driver Paul telling us, “It’s only ten more minutes to the top” (a lie), we made it to the top of the 761-foot tall mountain. Atop the mountain, we were able to reflect on our journey thus far and the strong connection with nature we had made.
Post-sunrise, we were all reminded that achieving the outcome we desired was a literal uphill battle and that sometimes the best things in life require both physical and mental effort.
Beginning at 10:00 AM, our already five-hour day got further underway as we trekked with our guide, Doug, to and through a watershed (properly called a “catchment” to please the Kiwis). The head of the catchment started far upstream of the tributary and ocean waters. Here, we got an exclusive look that many visitors do not always get. In the hands of nature’s expert, Doug taught and showed us the characteristics of many types of trees and other plants. One such example he showed was of the Pukatea tree – a tree whose inner layer of bark can be boiled and used as a primitive form of morphine. Furthermore, he showed us that these trees also served as “possum hotels” near the canopy. Sadly, possums are an invasive species to New Zealand and should not be thought of as cute and cuddly in their “hotel” and should be regarded with all hostility and hatred. Also seen on this tree were other assortments of vines and plants growing along the trunk. What was fascinating was that the roots of these plants grew the entire length down the trunk grasping to it and gathered water via moisture collection in the air as opposed to being in soil.
While here, a group of Lakers was tasked with determining water quality through the sampling and catching of macroinvertebrates. Water quality can be verified through a series of sightings of these aquatic insects. Certain macroinvertebrates are categorized as “green”, others as “yellow” and “red”, respectively translating to a “healthy stream environment”, “moderate health”, and “poor health”. These definitions of health are determined on the basis of oxygen concentration levels – the higher the concentration, the more “green” bugs that will be found. Groups were sent along sections of the stream and collectively caught a vast majority of “green” insects. None of this was completed without some screaming of surprise when they were first discovered (and of course the chill of the water).
One group of Lakers also conducted their trip research project throughout the day at different locations along the water catchment. Water quality is an extremely important topic for New Zealanders. Wherever you go in this country, everything is eco-friendly as green as can be. This can only be attained and maintained through conservation, proactive management, and continuous research along waterways. This group has set out to determine how the water quality changes throughout a water catchment, taking such an approach to cover a large area of data and observations. Though not specifically directed toward one side or another when regarding water quality and its underlying effects on both humans and the ecosystem, their research will help give a better understanding to what factors contribute to water quality degradation and what countermeasures can be done to combat it. Current findings show that the water drastically changes in health throughout the catchment and becomes considerably unhealthy at the end of the journey (last test site) for New Zealand standards. Good job Lakers and keep it up!
Next, we visited an estuary, the mouth of a river where it meets the ocean. Doug explained to us that estuaries are rich in plankton which brings in various types of shells, crabs, and seagrass. Then, we all were challenged to find as many as these species as possible. We may have gotten pinched multiple times by the crabs, but it was a great experience. As a nursing student, I (Kaitlyn) have really enjoyed all the ecological experiences on the trip and learning about the impact ecology has on human health. This trip has provided all students with a multidisciplinary approach to our respected majors.