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Field of Mars Environmental Education Centre

Field of Mars Environmental Education Centre

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Telephone02 9816 1298

Ecosystem dynamics program

Teacher checklist


Buffalo Creek Reserve - 117 Pittwater Road, Hunters Hill

Wallumedegal Country

Google map - Apple map

Bus access

Supply bus driver with Buffalo Creek Reserve bus information.

No bus entry into Buffalo Creek Reserve carpark.


DoE $24 per student - GST free

Non-gov school cost $34 per student - GST free, minimum charge $600

Risk assessment

Risk management plan

COVID-19 safety plan

All staff and adult visitors must be fully vaccinated and provide proof of vaccination. 


View the YouTube track overview video.

Sugarloaf Point track


Participants will be bushwalking during the day in rugged terrain.

This excursion may not be suitable for people who have recently been unwell.

Toilets are only available at the beginning and end of the day.


Backpack, clipboards, pencil, pen, medication, plenty of food, water bottle, sunblock, wet weather gear, hat, sports uniform, sturdy shoes, mask. 

There are no shops near the study site.

Student Devices

This program relies on students bringing their own mobile devices for photography and video-making. Please inform us if your school has a no-phone rule.


Preparing for an excursion

Supporting resources

Student resources:

Student resource website

Fieldwork skills video playlist

Virtual Fieldwork- student resource for "working from home"

Teacher resources:

Student worksheets

Teacher programming folder with resources, quizez, worksheets and assessment ideas.

Fact sheets

Bin access

Bins are only available at the start and the end of the excursion. Students must take responsibility for their own waste at all times.

Medical or special needs

Notify Field of Mars staff prior to excursion. 

Students, staff and visitors must not attend if unwell, even with mild symptoms.

Extreme or wet weather

Days predicted to be above 35ºC, high winds, extreme bush fire danger and dust storms may result in the excursion being modified, postponed or cancelled. 


Cancellations with less than three school weeks' notice will incur a $500 administration fee. This does not apply to cancellations due to weather, fire danger or COVID-19 restrictions.

Suggested timetable

The suggested timetable is suitable for up to three classses.



9.45 - 10.15 Introduction - Planning, toilets, distribute fieldwork equipment
  Class 1 Class 2 Class 3
10.00 - 10.55 Site 3 Site 2 Site 1
10.55 - 11.20 Recess - at site 4 or other site
11.20 - 12.15 Site 1 Site 3 Site 2
12.15 - 1.10 Site 2 Site 1 Site 3
1.10 - 1.40 Lunch - at Buffalo Creek Reserve or other site
1.40 - 2.00 Data analysis and problem solving
2.00 - 2.15 Conclusion and depart

Learning activities

A day of fieldwork that covers content from Modules 3 and 4 from the NSW NESA syllabus including:

  • Case studies of two unique animals, their adaptations and population changes due to human impacts

  • Biotic/abiotic comparison of two sites to provide habitat assessment for the two species

  • Hands-on ecological survey methods

  • Analysis of human activities, environmental impacts, management and research priorities


The fieldwork activities have a strong focus on the syllabus skills for working scientifically.

Sites 1 and 2

Students work in small groups of 3 or 4 and use fieldwork tools to complete a site survey of biotic and abiotic factors. Students will survey biotic factors using methods such as leaf litter invertbrate sampling, identifying scat and tracks, measure leaf litter cover with a quadrat and identifying dominant plant types. To survey abotic factors, students assess soil  texture, pH, moisture, colour and temperature, and use , hygrometers, compasses, clinometers, light meters and anemometers to measure light, temp, humidity, slope and aspect at each study site.

Students identify and discuss issues with survey validity and data reliability including examples of different types of error and bias.

In addition to their worksheets Students are inputting their data directly into a shared online spreadhsheet while they are in the bush, this process streamlines data collection, processing and analysis.

Animal case study

Students will investigate the habitat and engage with the adaptations of two threatened species/populations that occur at the site: The long-nosed Bandicoot and the red-crowned Toadlet. Students will use their devices to make a short video about the ecological niche, adaptations and threats for the long-nosed Bandicoot.

Ecosystem dynamics and human impacts

Throughout the day students will identify the relevant human activities and their associated environmental impacts occurring in the ecosystem. They will communicate these with a flowchart building activity.
Students will be coached on how to take the best photos on their own devices that enable them to best identify and communicate information relevant to the syllabus content.

At the conclusion of the day students are encouraged to use the information they have gathered to make an assessment about the two study sites and their suitability as habitat for the long-nosed bandicoot and red-crowned toadlet.
A range of assessment questions and examples are available for teachers who wish to use this as an assessment task.

Syllabus outcomes and content

Biology Stage 6 Syllabus (2017)

Working scientifically


A student:

  • develops and evaluates questions and hypotheses for scientific investigation BIO11/12-1

  • designs and evaluates investigations in order to obtain primary and secondary data and information BIO11/12-2

  • conducts investigations to collect valid and reliable primary and secondary data and information BIO11/12-3

  • selects and processes appropriate qualitative and quantitative data and information using a range of appropriate media BIO11/12-4

  • analyses and evaluates primary and secondary data and information BIO11/12-5

  • analyses ecosystem dynamics and the interrelationships of organisms within the ecosystem BIO11-11

Module 4 Ecosystem Dynamics


Students investigate and determine relationships between biotic and abiotic factors in an ecosystem, including:

  • the impact of abiotic factors

  • the impact of biotic factors, including predation, competition and symbiotic relationships

  • the ecological niches occupied by species

  • predicting consequences for populations in ecosystems due to predation, competition, symbiosis and disease

  • measuring populations of organisms using sampling techniques

Students analyse evidence that present-day organisms have evolved from organisms in the past by examining and interpreting a range of secondary sources to evaluate processes, claims and conclusions relating to the evolution of organisms in Australia, for example:

  • small mammals

Students investigate changes in past ecosystems that may inform our approach to the management of future ecosystems, including:

  • the role of human-induced selection pressures on the extinction of species

  • models that humans can use to predict future impacts on biodiversity

  • the role of changing climate on ecosystems

Students investigate practices used to restore damaged ecosystems, country or place, for example:

  • mining sites

  • land degradation

Biology Stage 6 Syllabus © NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) for and on behalf of the Crown in right of the State of New South Wales, 2017