Take a walk on the wild side

Completed Projects
Looking north along the lakefront towards the Wānaka marina
Working with Mount Aspiring College (MAC) and community partners, this initiative assesses whether the Wānaka lakefront development project meets its goals to ‘restore and develop ecology through ecological enhancements’ and to ‘improve land use within the lakefront’. It does this by measuring the impact of the development on biodiversity, water quality and community values.

Funded by Otago Museum’s Participatory Science Programme

Ash assessing macroinvertebrates found in the water near Bullock Creek

Timeline of events

Scroll down to take a journey backwards through time.


Students for Holy Family Catholic School heleped with the Community Lakefront Survey.

Lakefront Community Survey

A group of students from Holy Family Catholic School recently helped run a survey in town to find out how the community feels about the recent changes to the lakefront along the boardwalk area.

Together with our education support Jaylene, they presented their findings to the Queenstown Lakes District Council in a meeting early July 2022.

Volunteer efforts

Casey is volunteering to help WAI Wānaka with this project. She’s conducting macroinvertebrate surveys and measuring pH, conductivity, dissolved oxygen, and temperature in the littoral zone around the new plantings. She’s also helping to keep an eye on our temperature data loggers. They are positioned around the larger waterways that are flowing into Roys Bay, which are helping to build a picture for NIWA’s hydrodynamic observation study

Casey putting in a data logger at Bullock Creek.

Explorers on a path to discovery

Most Thursday mornings, the Wānaka Preschool ‘Explorers’ head to Wānaka Station Park to undertake some outdoor learning. Recently they decided to shake it up a bit and have made connections with Te Kākano Nursery and WAI Wānaka.

Little explorers discover the boardwalk in search of spiders

On the last Thursday of March the Explorers met with Jose Cranfield. WAI Wānaka’s Education and Outreach Coordinator took them for an exploration on the lake’s edge. Venturing along the new walkway towards the marina, they were the first to check on the recently installed spider houses. (See below entry for more info). After only four weeks, they are still establishing their spider families.

Checking the first spider house for inhabitants
The view of the top of a spider house
Checking spiders in the trees by gently shaking them onto a sheet and checking for spider variety and numbers

Back at the edge of lake Wānaka and the outflow of Bullock Creek, the Explorers joined Jose in testing the purity of the water. They did this through some macroinvertebrate monitoring. This involved scooping water and small river debris into a tray with a net. You then observe the tiny aquatic life in it. The kids found swimming mayflies and chironomid midges. They learned that their presence indicates that the water is really clean. Great morning out with an excited group of small explorers!

Checking for tiny creatures in the water
Biodiversity monitoring
Looking for macroinvertebrates
spotting Grebes along the lake Wānaka walkway
The Explorers stopped to view the Grebe. Usually the walkway reaches the edge of the water. Currently, after a long dry period, Lake Wānaka is close to its lowest ever reported water level.

Incy wincy spider…

In Feb 2022, MAC team green and yr 12 biology students had the opportunity to add to this research by partnering with James Crofts-Bennett, an Arachnologist (spider expert) from Otago University. The students gained some interesting knowledge about our creepy crawly friends, including the fact that spiders can not only fly using atmospheric electricity, but reach a height of up to 4kms above the earths surface using a technique called ‘ballooning’. They then finished setting up spider houses built by the Wānaka Community Workshop and investigated what sorts of bugs can be found along the new board walk area. Click here to see what we found.

A group of team green students learning about bugs along the new boardwalk area
Creating complexity with wire inside the spider houses to create attractive spaces for spiders to build webs
A finished spider house ready to be places in the field
Learning about bugs in the trees by shaking them onto a sheet
Spider house amongst vegetation
Meeting a wolf spider living under a rock near the Wānaka spring

The students enhanced the spider houses with some wire loops, sticks and stones and vegetation to add structural complexity to make them attractive to spiders. They were then placed in amongst the vegetation and will be monitored monthly to establish which species are present in the area and how this is changing over time. Community groups are invited to take part in this research. If you see the houses, please do not touch or open them as this upsets the research data. If you would like to join this study, please sign up as a volunteer.

There’s something in the water

On the same day as the visit from ‘spider man’, WAI Wānaka ran a water monitoring workshop with the students, identifying macroinvertebrates and testing water clarity, conductivity, temperature and pH, adding to the ongoing water quality data being collected by volunteers.

Ash explaining the procedures of water monitoring to team green students
Checking macroinvertebrates near Bullock Creek
Comparing macroinvertebrates found at Waterfall Creek to the boardwalk study


Freshwater monitoring

Following the opening of the boardwalk in 2021, the MAC year 11 Te Reo Māori class were involved in regular water monitoring at this same site. This monitoring is continuing throughout 2022 with the help of volunteers from the local community.

MAC students engaged in water monitoring

Opening day of the boardwalk. People walking and talking on boardwalk by the Wānaka lakefront.
Boardwalk opening day – 20th January 2021


First steps – baseline measurements

At the end of 2020, before the QLDC boardwalk development began, MAC year 10 camp and WAI Wānaka summer interns collected data on terrestrial invertebrates, benthic macroinvertebrates and physio chemical properties of the water from lakefront sites in the area between Bullock Creek and the Wānaka marina. Read more about the collaboration here. This data, along with a community connection survey, forms a baseline for future measurements.

Taking first baseline measures along the lakefront

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