Adventures in Sydney, Brisbane, and North Stradbroke Island!

Sunday, April 8th

Today, we had a beautiful study day in Sydney to reflect on the past week since Spring Break ended! We also used it to study for the second exam of the semester, coming up later on this week.

Monday, April 9th

Today, we received two lectures from Charmaine and Jason Mumbulla about Aboriginal Australians in contemporary society. While we have received a lot of information about Aboriginal history in Australia, it was amazing to begin addressing their situation in the present. Following a brief timeline outlining significant Aboriginal events, we examined and challenged a number of the stereotypes that non-aboriginal Australians hold against the Aboriginal population.

Tuesday, April 10th

Today we took a train to visit Western Sydney University to listen to a lecture by Dr. Wayne Fallon, who spoke to us about how economics and the environment were connected. With this introduction, we spent the rest of the afternoon engaging in conversation and interesting projects with business students from the University! The projects surrounded first what global environmental issues we considered most prevalent, and how those global issues could be resolved through business, a new system, the economy, new laws, etc.
Some groups believed that food waste was a big global problem while others thought that nitrogen leaching or marine plastic pollution deserved attention. With these ideas, we collaborated with the business students to find different systems good enough to implement on a major scale to solve each of these issues, like rating systems, more enforced laws, etc.

Wednesday, April 11th

Today’s only activity consisted of completing an exam at Charles Darwin University. This provided an excellent opportunity to reflect on coursework from the past few weeks and make important connections between the different disciplines of study. Afterwards, we were free to explore Sydney for the rest of the day, which involved many of us traveling to the famous “Bondi Beach” and exploring the Circular Quay, including the Sydney Opera House Sydney’s Botanic Gardens.

Thursday, April 12th

Today was purely a travel day to make our flight from Sydney to Brisbane, finally retiring to our Brisbane YHA accommodation in the afternoon. We took our free evening time to buy groceries, check out the pool, do laundry, and generally relax before more traveling in the upcoming day.

Friday, April 13th

Today, we started our day off early to depart for North Stradbroke Island from the Brisbane YHA. Because there is no bridge connecting the island to the mainland, we boarded a ferry that took us to North Stradbroke Island. Upon arriving on the island, we drove to the Moreton Bay Research Station, where we would be staying for the next few days. Following a brief orientation to the facility, we immediately jumped into a series of lectures, presented by Dr. William Loh. that covered “Primary Production of Marine Flora” and “Introduction to Mangrove Ecosystems.”

After the lectures, we took a break to conduct a field survey of the Mangrove populations at Myora Springs. Here, we investigated the relationship between distance from shore and several different variables involving the mangrove trees. It was fun to immediately begin applying some of the information we had learned just a couple hours earlier!

After finishing our survey, we returned to the Moreton Bay Research Station and concluded our night with an additional set of lectures covering Sand Island Ecology, Geology, and Hydrology. Overall, it was an exhausting yet productive day of travel and work!

Saturday, April 14th

Today was the first day waking up in beautiful Moreton Bay! After breakfast, we all headed out, led by William Loh, for a relaxing swim in Blue Lake, a freshwater lake that provides a window into the island’s water table (otherwise known as a “window lake”). We hiked back to then travel to the beach, and finally Brown Lake for swimming. Brown Lake is called this not because of mud or silt, but because the tannins from the trees growing beside it leaked into the freshwater, much like tea leaves do, staining it a brown color. Unlike the Blue Lake, Brown Lake is solely dependent on rainwater to maintain its water levels (known as a “perched lake”). I speak for the entire group when I say we really needed these relaxing swims to take a break from the numerous lectures from the previous day. We greatly appreciate everything that William has helped us with this past week in North Stradbroke Island!

Week 6

Sunday, February 11:

Today was a study day spent in Melbourne.


Monday, February 12:

Today we left Melbourne and traveled along the great ocean road.  We stopped at Loch Ard Gorge and the Twelve Apostles. These locations were absolutely gorgeous and provided first hand insight on how Australasian is managing conservation of environmental and historical sites with tourism.  Visitors are highly encouraged to stay on the designated paths as not to corrode the natural rock formations such as the cliffs or stalagmites and stalactites as well as not to trample vegetation that has begun to spring up in the bottom of the gorge.

We ended the day at Bimbi Park, where we stayed for the next few days.

Tuesday, March 13:

Today we explored some regeneration burns at the Conservation Ecology Center. We learned a lot about the historic role of controlled burns in Australia’s history. Aborigines learned many years ago, that spreading fire encouraged new foliage to grow from the ashes and larger, more dangerous fires were prevented in the process. After settlement by Europeans, these controlled burns were stopped, but there has been a recent push by conservationists to bring back the process, and positive changes have already been seen since doing so. Invasive species are being controlled and destroyed, while native eucalyptus forests are making a comeback. (Many native species including eucalyptus trees rely on fire to germinate.)

While we were at the Ecology Center, we also learned that in some places in Australia, dogs are being trained to help locate endangered species. One of the handlers demonstrated the process with two of their dogs, who have been trained to locate tiger quoll (the spotted creature below) scat. The dogs do a quick scan of the area and then use their noses to narrow the search area. They have been specially trained to give non-verbal cues when they get close, as to not disturb wildlife in national parks and other protected areas.

On the walk back to Bimbi Park, we spotted several wild koalas in the eucalyptus trees. We saw around 6 individuals including a mother and her joey.

In the afternoon we took a treetop walk through a recovering eucalyptus forest. It was interesting to learn about a fungus that was plaguing many individuals of a single species of tree. The spores spread more quickly because of human visitors and once there are visible signs on the trees it is too late to save them. During our walk, we also learned that there are several species of tree which send out “runners” or secondary trunks when the main tree becomes old, so that when the main body dies, the organism continues to live.

Wednesday, March 14:

Today, our guide Richard Callopy, led us on an interpretive walk at Pt. Lookout. We started with a walk to and alongside the shoreline and then spent over an hour exploring tide pools. Our guide also showed us some interesting rock formations. A lot of the stone along Australia’s coast is mudstone which has hardened over thousands of years. As the ocean waves crash against the rock formations, certain sections erode away faster than others, leaving round sections of harder sediment.

The specific area of the coast we went to was connected to natural freshwater springs. Some of it comes from river systems and drips down the rock formations , but more freshwater could also be reached by digging into the sand along the shoreline. Richard demonstrated this by digging down about a foot and then encouraged us to taste the water, and it was, surprisingly, fresh and not salty.

In the afternoon, we walked to Station Beach and Rainbow Falls. The falls are another amazing place where freshwater meets saltwater. While there we also learned a lot about rips and the importance of knowing your beaches before going for a swim. Rips might not look like all that much at first, but the currents are much stronger than they first appear.

Thursday, March 15:

We left Bimbi Park and continued on our journey to Phillip island. Prior to Phillip Island, we made a stop at the Werribee Western Treatment Plant. During this visit we learned about how majority of sewage from Melbourne is processed, and its environmental impacts. This treatment was unique in the fact that it used bacteria that is commonly found in our guts to break down the sewage. Lastly, we were about to spot some of the 241 species of birds who often fed on the sewage. After a long day on the bus we finally reached our accommodation which was the YHA Phillip Island.

Friday, March 16:

The next day we had three lectures in the morning which gave us an introduction to Phillip Island Nature Park. We learned about the different areas that comprise the park which include the Koala Conservation Center, Penguin Parade, and Churchill Island. After lectures, we went in a cruise to seal rocks where we saw a bunch of adult and baby seals! Later that night we went on a sunset walk and shearwater watch at Cape Woolamai. We walked along the beach and then to a point lookout where we could see the shearwaters coming in from sea to spend the night in their burrows on land. We learned about the importance the shearwaters, especially amongst the indigenous peoples of Australia. Some of the uses included medicinal purposes and body art during traditional ceremonies.

Saturday, March 17:

We started the day Nobbies Center where we learned about the little blue penguins that resided on Phillip Island. We then spent the remainder of the day at the Penguin Parade. The first thing we did was create artificial penguin burrows! The current penguin parade center is going to be relocated which means there will be more room for the penguins to inhabit the land. However before this occurs certain plants must be grown so that the soil does not collapse on the penguin burrows. Next, we had a lecture on tourism and the environment. It was interesting to learn about the precautions the penguin parade staff was taking in order to conserve the blue penguins. We then enjoyed delicious fish and chips before we went to the penguin parade show!




Week 4

February 26

On Monday we went to the New Zealand Marine Studies Centre, where we went tide pooling, learning about the different coastal ecosystems. We also gathered data on limpet length and height in order to understand how these creatures adapt to changing climates and warmer temperatures, leading to stronger currents.

February 27

Tuesday my favorite day this week by far. We visited the Royal Albatross Centre in Dunedin, where there were nesting albatrosses – one of the largest flying birds in the world. At the center was a disappearing gun built for defense in 1886. While we were at the observatory viewing the albatrosses, we witnessed an unexpected sight – an adult sea lion hunting a young fur seal.

February 28

The next morning we left Dunedin to make our way to Queenstown. The highlight of this day was stopping at Manapouri and taking a cruise through Doubful Sound to learn about the Manapouri Hydro Power Station. We learned about the details behind the construction of the station as well as how it is one of the nine powerhouses in New Zealand that make 18% of New Zealand’s energy in total.

March 1

During our first day in Queenstown we toured a local sheep and cattle farm, Earnscleugh Station, which produces 100 tonnes of Merino wool per year. The farmer we talked to explained how different changing environmental regulations were affecting farms in New Zealand, and expressed his concerns relating to industrial farming, cloning, and other modern practices that could potentially affect the local farms around the area.

March 2

Friday was our “adventure day” because we made a trip to the world’s first bungy jump location, the Kawarau Bungy Centre. We learned a bit about the history of this unique company, and how it uses Queenstown’s adventurous nature to attract people from all over the world. Some of us bungy jumped off the bridge at the center and others went off the zip-line. Afterwards we made our way to lake Wakatipu, where we had a surprise waiting for us – a one hour long ride on a jet boat through the lake and rivers surrounding Queenstown.

March 3-4

Saturday and Sunday were our “study days” so a lot of us used the time to prepare for our exam on Monday, but we had some extra time to go hiking, kayaking, and rafting. I think we can all say that we had an absolute blast getting to explore the adventure capital of the world!

Week 3

Feb 19

Today we spent the morning at the beach, and the afternoon at University of Canterbury. At the university, we had the privilege of attending a lecture by Dr. Billy Osteen. Dr. Osteen shared a lot with us about crises, such as the earthquake Christchurch experienced in 2006, and how a community reacts to those crises. After our lecture we took a walking tour of Christchurch, where Dr. Osteen pointed out different memorials, playgrounds, and temporary set ups so the community could rebuild as the city rebuilds.

Feb 20

Today we went to Christchurch’s Antarctica center. We learned a lot about the research bases in Antarctica, including scraping the surface of some of the research being done down there. We talked a lot about how uniquely situated Antarctica’s geographic location is, so that all oceans touch it’s landmass. After our lecture, we toured the center and got to be in a simulation of an Antarctica summer windstorm (made us feel like we were home in a Minnesotan winter!!).

Feb 21

Study day!! We avoided the storm and found things to do indoors (with one excursion to get ice cream).

Feb 22

Travel day! Destination; Aoraki/Mt. Cook. We stopped at Lake Tekapo for lunch, and soaked in its beautiful views, including the beautiful chapel called Good Shepard. We arrived at our hostel, and some of us stargazed that night.

Feb 23

We started today with an engaging lecture from Department of Conservation worker Andy Oliver, who talked to us about the human and terrestrial history of Aoraki/Mt. Cook. We learned about the introduction of invasive species, sheep farms, and a brief time period where only the rich could frequent the beautiful views of Mt. Cook. We also learned about the Maori history of the mountain, and the reclaiming of it’s original Maori name, Aoraki. We then embarked on a 6 mile hike through Hooker Valley. More beautiful stargazing tonight as well!

Feb 24

Another travel day! This day’s destination was Oamaru, home of our wonderful Program Leader, Susie Scott. We had some guided tour time with Andy in the morning, learning more about the Pakeha (European settlers) history of sheep farming and settlement. We arrived at Susie’s house in Oamaru for some touch rugby and barbecue before heading off to see Blue Penguins in their natural habitat as they emerged from the ocean, and climbed rocks up to their little penguin sanctuary. Quite an amazing sight!

Feb 25

Today we traveled to Dunedin, home of our professors, Gary and Sian. We stopped at the world-famous Moreaki boulders, which are perfectly round! Next we stopped at Orakanui, an eco-sanctuary. We receieved a lecture from Jean, a staff member there. We learned about their efforts to rid the land of nonnative pests, and boosting native populations. This was followed by a tour of the land, where we saw many birds, a Tuatara, and some native plant species!

Here are pictures of our adventures!!

Week 2 in New Zealand

This past week and a half have been full of many more adventures! We started this week with a tour of Te Puia, a Maori village in Rotorua. Amid learning about Maori culture and seeing a cultural performance, we also got to see the geothermal activity in this region.


We then traveled to Wellington, the capital of New Zealand, or as New Zealanders call its, The Windy City. One of the highlights of Wellington was our trip to Zealandia, the world’s first fully-fenced urban ecosanctuary. Zealandia’ mission is to try restore the valley as much as possible to its pre-human state. Here are a few pictures of Zealandia.

On Tuesday we got to tour the Beehive, or the New Zealand government building. What a great way to learn about how the New Zealand government works! In addition to learning that the Beehive has been voted the world’s third ugliest building, we also got to see New Zealand’s parliament in action; how they discuss issues and make decisions. 

On Wednesday, we had a study day because even though we’ve enjoyed all of our activities, we need a day to relax and explore the city of Wellington. Some of us spent the day at the beach while others decided to climb Mt. Victoria. The next few days were busy as we traveled from Wellington to Nelson and toured Kaimira Vineyards, an organic vineyard where we learned how they control pests and deal with diseases within their Vineyard.

Sunday was definitely one for the books. We arrived in Kaikoira to go whale watching. On this tour, we saw a sperm whale and two beaked whales, which are actually very rare to see.

After this exciting whale watching tour, we received a lecture on the earthquake that happened in 2016 and how it affected the whale watching company and Kaikoura.

Check out some more pictures!

Kia Ora. Welcome to New Zealand 🇳🇿

Week 1 in NZ.


If you want to see what we are up to every day, check out our itinerary!!

Here is the link: Final-Packet—Student-Handbook-St-Olaf-New-Zealand-And-Australia-2018

What we’ve been up to.

After three long flights, we arrived in Auckland NZ. After our first night in the YHA hostel we woke up to a national holiday. Our first morning down under, we visited a festival to celebrate Waitangi Day. This is a contentious Holiday commemorating the Waitangi treaty between Maori chiefs and the colonial English. Some of the oles even got to swim in the ocean on our first full day. Hopefully not too many of us got sunburned.

Our second day, we got to experience more about Maori Culture as we visited a traditional Marae. We learned Maori words, a song, and more about their history.

On Thursday, we took a bus to Goat Island Marine Reserve and took a walk along the cliffs of the reserve. Many of us took a swim in the waves before we learned about different marine life that lives here.

Friday was a highlight for many of the oles here in NZ. Before lunch we made our way to the Glow worm caves and got to see the glow worms light up the rock walls above us. In the afternoon, we rode to Hobbiton where many Lord of the Rings fans got to satisfy their childhood dreams of visiting the Shire.

On Saturday, we woke up in Rotorua and visited Te Puia. Here we were able to watch a Maori performance, see the geothermal geysers and mud pools, and even have our lunch cooked by the hot steam.

Check out some pictures of our adventures!!