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Field of Mars Environmental Education Centre

Field of Mars Environmental Education Centre

Experience Engage Enable

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 $25 per student - GST free

Non-gov school cost $35 per student - GST free, minimum charge $700

Risk assessment

Risk management plan

COVID-19 safety plan


View the video of the tracks and bushland sites visited on this excursion

Sugarloaf Point track


Participants will be bushwalking for up to 1km on rocky tracks with some uneven steps.

Not wheelchair accessible.

This excursion may not be suitable for people who have recently been unwell or who have significantly limited mobility.

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

Please contact the centre to discuss the needs of participants with limited mobility.

Bring Backpack, clipboards, pencil, pen, medication, plenty of food, water bottle, sunscreen, wet weather gear, hat, sports uniform, sturdy shoes. There are no shops.
Student devices

Students are required to bring their own mobile device for photography and data collection. They must have the Google Sheets app downloaded prior to the excursion.

You will be emailed a link to your schools data sheet in the week before your excursion.

Download Google sheets: Google Play - App Store

Please contact the centre if your school has a no-phone rule.

Essential work and viewing for students before the excursion

Pre-excursion activities (Google docs worksheet)

Note: We strongly recommend that your students complete at least activities 1 and 2 before the excursion. This will help your students make the most of the fieldwork experience and drastically reduce the amount of 'teacher talk' on the day.

Preparing for an excursion video

How to use the instruments video playlist

Note: Watch these videos in the week before the excursion

Fieldwork information and skills video playlist

Note: These videos can be watched before the excursion but are also useful for assessment tasks based on the excursion.

Essential resources

Student worksheets

Student resource website

Supporting resources

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

Pre-excursion activities (Google docs worksheet)

Fact sheets for relevant animal and plant species.

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.  Weather forecast


Cancellations with less than four school weeks' notice will incur a $500 administration fee. This does not apply to cancellations due to weather or fire danger.

Suggested timetable

This suggested timetable is suitable for up to three classses.  Schools with four classes will need to split into three large groups or contact us at the time of booking to discuss using our second site.



9.45 - 10.15 Introduction - Inquiry questions, 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 bush 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 - Bush site
1.40 - 2.00 Data analysis, problem solving revisiting inquiry questions
2.00 - 2.15 Conclusion and depart


Students undertake a journey through natural environments to access three main sites. They will engage with content from Module 4 from the NESA Biology syllabus including:

  • Study of a population of the Long Nosed Bandicoot and it's ecological niche, including interactions, adaptations, threats and population dynamics
  • Rigorous, hands-on ecological surveys of the biotic and abiotic factors at two different forest sites. The data collected from these surveys allows for a comparison of the sites which informs a habitat assessment for the Long Nosed Bandicoot.
  • Observation and analysis of human activities, environmental impacts, management and research priorities.
  • In-field data interpretation and identifiction of cause-effect relationships

An optional hands-on communication activity is available by request. This engaging activity focuses on animal adaptations, habitat, threats and management.

All of the fieldwork activities have an explicit teaching focus on the syllabus skills for working scientifically.  

Inquiry questions

  • How do biotic and abiotic factors affect animal populations in natural areas?
  • What fieldwork and analysis methodologies are needed for a valid and reliable habitat survey?
  • How can human activities impact the natural ecosystems and how should they be managed?


Sites A and B - Twin ecological surveys

Students work in groups of 3 or 4. Each group uses fieldwork instruments and tools to record quantitative and qualitative data, including biotic and abiotic factors.

Biotic factors include leaf litter invertebrate sampling, fauna evidence, leaf-litter coverage using a sectioned quadrat and identifying dominant plant types.

Soil factors include soil texture, pH, moisture, colour and temperature.

Abiotic environmental factors surveyed are numerous and use instruments including hygrometers, compasses, clinometers, light meters and anemometers.

Students record their data and observations using worksheets and a shared online spreadsheet, accessible on their phones using the Google sheets app. This streamlines data collection, processing and analysis – and allows the teachers to spot and correct errors and suspicious data outliers as they occur.

Groups identify and discuss issues with each survey method's validity and data reliability. This discussion includes explicit examples of different types of error and bias and strategies to minimise these.

Note: In order to make the most of these activities students need to watch these videos in the week before the excursion and complete a least the first two activities in this Google docs worksheet.

Human activities, impacts and management

Students locate evidence of human activities identify environmental impacts and current management strategies that promote survivorship of the local long-nosed bandicoot population.

During the excursion students will use their own phones or devices to make a short, informative video to communicate their observations, learnings and findings.

In-field data interpretation, processing and analysis

As data and observations are collected students identify and discuss emerging patterns and trends. Students formulate inferences and communicate these as proposed cause and effect statements.

Students can take photos using their own devices that enable them to identify and communicate information relevant to the syllabus content and assessment task.

To conclude students consider and discuss information they have gathered and use this to make an initial comparison and assessment of the two study sites, specifically their suitability as habitat for the long-nosed bandicoot as well as future directions for land and ecosystem managers.


Teachers can use this excursion and data collected as the basis of an assessment task.

A range of sample assessment questions, tasks and marking rubrics are available by request.

Schools that choose to collect their excursion data using the Google sheets spreadsheet app (instead of pen and paper) will find it much easier to assess their students' data processing and analysis skills. Your school will be provided with a spreadsheet link in the week before the excursion.

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