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Scientific knowledge and Māori knowledge about mussel biology

Levels: 5-6
NoS achievement aims: Understanding about science icon. Understanding about science , Participating and contributing icon. Participating and contributing
Contextual strands: Living world icon. Living world
Topic: Rocky shore


Living things need the right conditions to reproduce successfully and maintain sustainable levels. Māori traditions and Western science can work together to preserve populations that may be at risk.

What you need

  • Access to information about:
    • resource bans (rahui)
    • the life cycle of the mussel.

Rahui: ban or prohibition on collecting resources; harvest ban. When a rahui is placed on a river, lake, forest, or harbour, people are banned from using some resources. For example, a rahui might ban people gathering shellfish from a beach, for various reasons. Many Māori tribes use the practice of rahui to conserve or replenish a resource.

Note: Supporting activity resources are provided below.


  • What is a rahui? What do we know about it?
  • How would a rahui help the survival of green-lipped mussels?
  • Why do we need to preserve natural resources?
  • What conditions are needed to keep species surviving?
  • What happens to natural resources that are not protected?
  • Where do traditional ideas and customs related to the preservation of a natural resource come from?
  • Where do science ideas and practices related to the preservation of a natural resource come from? What is the same and what is different about these two types of knowledge?
  • Can traditional knowledge and science knowledge work together?


  1. Get students to prepare for their investigation into rahui and mussels by undertaking background research. For example, they could:
    • investigate reasons for imposing rahui
    • use kōrero/interviews with people involved in imposing rahui
    • research web resources.
  2. Have students use their research to create a consequence map (see activity resources below) of positives and negative outcomes of placing a rāhui.


  • In what ways can traditional Māori knowledge about the organisms living in an ecosystem help scientists understand that ecosystem?
  • Where/how could you find out about traditional Māori knowledge?
  • Where/how could you find out about scientific knowledge?
  • How can these knowledge systems support and enhance each other?
  • How might over-harvesting of one or more living member(s) of an organism affect the balance of the whole ecosystem?
  • How can we find out about the state of balance within an ecosystem?

Activity resources

  • Diagram detailing the life cycle of a mussel.

PDF icon. Life cycle of a mussel (PDF 79 KB)

  • An example of using a consequence map as a strategy for looking at what has been found out, and considering likely consequences of different courses of action.

PDF icon. Consequence map (PDF 65 KB)