The 24 students that met at Auckland Airport on Easter Monday, 2014, had travelled from all over NZ and few students knew anyone at all. The hour long wait for late arriving flights was boring enough to be quite an icebreaker and it was not long before students were sitting cross-legged on the carpet in the middle of the airport engaged in conversation: making new friends. By the time we reached our accommodation at Sonninghill Hostel in Hamilton, friendships were already forged.
Friendships built on the camp made team work easy. Teams worked together in laboratory groups at Waikato University; exploring the plant displays, classifying, dissecting, in microscopy and in microbiology. And teams worked together preparing evening meals and even doing dishes! Evenings included tutorials with alumni who could also tell stories of what it was like to travel and represent NZ at past IBO events.
The camp program started in Hamilton with laboratories that covered all aspects of first year University Biology study. University lecturers, technicians and tutors were on hand to assist. Students completed biochemistry techniques such as loading gels, spectrometry and reading results of gel electrophoresis, for many students this was their first experience of practical skills at this level. Microscopy skills included creating wet mounts and staining slides of carefully cut plant stem sections, root squash slides to view mitosis and staining slides of bacteria to enable identification. The Practical Exam finished the Hamilton leg of the camp. Students took the dissections, microscopy and floral studies in their stride, with 5 practical tasks completed in the three hours.
The Auckland leg of the camp started with a biostatistics lecture held at Kings College. Our stay at Kings Institute, Auckland was for 5 nights. A day spent at Auckland School of Medical Sciences included lectures from Micro biologist Siouxsie Wiles and Developmental Biologist Fabiana Kubke. A highlight was a rare opportunity to go inside the PC2 microbiology labs at the Medical Sciences School. The rest of the week was spent in field work. Reptile evolution was the context for a laboratory work at Massey University Albany, this was reinforced with a field trip to the reptile park and an evening symposium featuring reports on postgraduate biology research at Massey. Reptiles featured again with the appearance of geckos as part of the exciting symposium material. A day trip to Rotoroa Island was an exciting part of the Auckland studies. Prof Dianne Brunton lead studies of birds on this predator free island. Close encounters with wekas and pukekoes were a highlight of the day.
The week ended with a three hour theory exam on the last morning. The final lunch together at Kings Institute (delicious food!!) was an opportunity to thank our resident tutors Charlotte and Amanda, medical students from Otago University and our resident teachers; Dr Sharples, Richard Hendra, Nick Bryant, Dr Meikle and Pru Casey. After ten days intensive study and science exploration together, farewells were somewhat emotional, but with members all signing to our Alumni Facebook page, participants knew they would be able to keep in touch from their schools throughout NZ.