The New Zealand Marine Studies Centre (NZMSC) offers a series of opportunities for gifted learners from Te Waipounamu / southern New Zealand to take part in a science research programme based at the Portobello Marine Laboratory (University of Otago). Students will experience an authentic research context and a unique learning environment (e.g. laboratory, coastline fieldwork or research vessel) alongside other rangatahi, to extend students' skills, enrich their understanding and foster a knowledge-building community. Students will get a chance to focus on an in-depth research project that blends marine science and the nature of science. The programmes cater to a diversity of ages, levels and support. Programmes range from 1 to 5 days in duration. Please see programme schedule below for more information.
Students need to be self-directed and highly motivated. Each application needs to be accompanied by detailed waiver forms and a student profile / endorsement completed by a teacher or other affiliated adult.
In 2023, we are offering multiple science extension programmes for tamariki, rangatahi and kura with a number of customised options. Supervised and directed by our educators, these programmes involve in-depth and wide-ranging field and laboratory experiences, as well as mentoring by scientists in a supportive and friendly environment. Like-minds working together to develop an enriching, knowledge-building community. A majority of the programmes are residential where students stay overnight on Kamau Taurua / Quarantine Island. We are also able to have teachers along for the residential programmes, which can be used as a PD experience.
The 2023 programmes are offered at a reduced cost, thanks to the Ministry of Education's funding for gifted learners, and the Centre of Research Excellence, Coastal People: Southern Skies. Schools or organisations supporting the application will be invoiced after the selection process is complete, and it will be up to them to determine the allocation of those costs. Due to limited spaces, if students cannot attend this course after being confirmed for the programme, no refund is available, as we still need to cover all programme delivery costs organised for the confirmed number of attendees.
The cost and organisation of transport to and from NZMSC will be the responsibility of your school/parents and some contribution to meals (morning and afternoon tea) is expected. Participants are notified of details on acceptance to the programme.
At the moment, there are no other regulations then 'stay home if you are sick', and report symptoms to staff if they occur while onsite. Participants will be notified if this changes before or during the programme.
Due to limited capacity, the allocation of places on these programmes will involve a selection process. Although some priority may be given to schools who have shown particular interest in the past, we are keen to involve new schools. Each school is expected to use at least three identification criteria to determine up to three applicants to commit fully to the relevant programme.
For information on identifying giftedness, please visit:
Application forms will be made available underneath each programme description on this page. Please make sure both the student application form (filled out by the student), waiver forms (filled out by a guardian), and the student profile form (filled out by the teacher), are completed for an applicant to ensure consideration into a programme. Application deadline is generally 3–6 weeks before the programme start.
Print copies of the application forms can also be arranged by contacting:
These can be posted in the mail to the New Zealand Marine Studies Centre:
University of Otago
New Zealand Marine Studies Centre
PO Box 56
Science and the Sea
Applications close: September 17 2023
Explore the ocean through student-led research projects mentored by postgraduate scientists. Open to year 6, 7 and 8 students in the Dunedin area, who are able and enthusiastic about science, and/or gifted – not necessarily in the sciences (e.g. have strong leadership and social skills, cultural specific abilities, sporting and/or creative skills).
4 Days at NZMSC. October 24, 30, 31 and November 7, 2023.
Maximum 25 students (up to three per school). Programme cost: $40 (excluding GST) per participant.
We are also accepting bookings for customised science enrichments programmes, perfect for Accelerated or GATE classes from individual schools or groups. Programmes are either set or can be developed with the teacher, and can cater to a wide range of topics.
2–4hrs at $10 per student (excluding GST).
Examples of programmes are:
Sharks: Inside Out
This programme will explore what makes a shark a shark. Find out what species of shark are found in the local areas of the Otago Harbour and off the coast and how they are different from each other. Discover how scientists gather data about sharks and what this information tells us. Explore the external and internal anatomy of a shark and examine the unique features and adaptations it has to survive.
Crabs Galore / Mighty Molluscs
Explore the evolutionary development of crustaceans or molluscs, investigate their anatomy through dissections and learn about their behaviour with lab experiments. With an opportunity to look at the wider ecology through a shore survey.
All about Rimurimu
Investigate multiple aspects of a keystone species, weaving together ecological science with health and wellbeing. In the NZGeo article linked below, you can meet some of the scientists behind the research lab forming the bedrock of this science extension.
This programme is residential and an ideal extension for those that have participated in previous NZMSC programmes.
Maximum 25 students per programme, with up to three students per school.
Applications close: April 9 2023
Open to Year 10 students who are able and enthusiastic about science, and/or are gifted – not necessarily in the sciences (e.g. have strong leadership and social skills, cultural specific abilities, sporting and/or creative skills).
5 Days at NZMSC:
First block – May 11, 12 and 13, 2023
Second block – June 1 and 2, 2023
Programme cost: $50 (excluding GST) per participant.
Applications close: Jun 25 2023
Open to Year 9 and 10 Māori students who are able and enthusiastic about science, and/or are gifted – not necessarily in the sciences (e.g. have strong leadership and social skills, cultural specific abilities, sporting and/or creative skills).
5 Days at NZMSC:
First block – July 19, 20 and 21, 2023
Second block – August 17 and 18, 2023
Programme cost: TBC.
Expedition: Deep Thought
Applications close: 23 February 2023
Explore the moana through research projects mentored by postgraduate scientists on board a research vessel. Open to all Year 11 students who are able and enthusiastic about science, and/or are gifted – not necessarily in the sciences. This programme is residential and an ideal extension for those that have participated in previous NZMSC programmes.
5 Days at NZMSC:
First block – March 29, 30, and 31, 2023
Second block – June 22 and 23, 2023
Maximum 25 students (up to three applications per school).
Programme cost: $50 (excluding GST) per participant.
Example of research project from 2022 programme:
We are also accepting bookings for customised science enrichment programmes, perfect for Accelerated or GATE classes from individual schools or groups. Programmes are either set or can be developed with the teacher. They cater to both Mathematics and Statistics, Technology, and Science (Nature of Science, Earth and Space Science).
1–3 days: $10 per student/day (excluding GST).
Some examples of programmes are:
Future Oceans with the Aquavan
A two-day programme experiencing marine science with the guidance of oceanographers and biologists. Ranging from the physical properties of the ocean to the complexity of all the life it sustains, students will use a variety of investigative methods to explore marine biodiversity, what factors impact it, and how the future might look. The programme aims to develop knowledge and skills within the science of ocean warming, plastic pollution, and ocean acidification.
RV Polaris II Expedition
Experience the life of a marine scientist mapping out life on the ocean floor. This programme is a full day of science experiences with the guidance of oceanographers and marine biologists. Ranging from the physical properties of the ocean to the complexity of all the life it sustains, you'll use a variety of sampling methods to build a picture of the Otago Harbour's marine biodiversity, what factors impact it, and how the future might look. This programme includes a preparation session via Zoom to get the maximum out of your expedition.
Maximum 25 students per expedition. Contact us for available dates and more information.
Aquanauts: Spying on the Depths
Getting to the moon is hard. Getting to the bottom of the ocean can be harder! But there is plenty of technology to help us these days. Students will work together to find out what's happening on the ocean bottom, building their own robots so they can do just that. But beware; water pressure, salt and electronics in the sea present a series of challenges…
Our online programme is now available here:
If you have enquiries about the online programme, please contact:
For science extension and enrichment programme enquiries and bookings, contact: