Jobs at DOC: Trainee Ranger, Sacha Astill

Department of Conservation —  09/03/2012

Every Friday Jobs at DOC will take you behind the scenes and into the jobs, the challenges, the highlights, and the personalities of the people who work at the Department of Conservation.

Today we profile Trainee Ranger, Sacha Astill.

At work…

Position: Trainee Ranger, Greymouth Area Office.

Taking a kiwi egg for artificial incubation in Christchurch

Taking a kiwi egg for artificial incubation in Christchurch

What kind of things do you do in your role?

A bit of everything. Over the two year traineeship the idea is to get work experience with each team—visitor assets, biodiversity, community relations and historic.

Over the last few months I have been part of the bio team monitoring great spotted kiwi/roroa in the South Eastern Paparoa ranges and blue duck/whio up the Kawheka Creek behind Kumara.

A whio release at Moonlight River

A whio release at Moonlight River

What is the best part about your job?

Tracking down and catching kiwi. We end up in some pretty neat patches of West Coast forest and get some fantastic views from the ridgeline down the coast to South Westland. The birds themselves are very cool. Being the largest species of kiwi, they are really strong and have quite a prehistoric look about them.

What is the hardest part about your job?

Kiwi poo—very smelly!

Sacha kneeling on the ground, holding a large kiwi.

Female Great Spotted Kiwi at Nelson Lakes

What led you to your role in DOC?

After working in the design and museum industry I needed a career change into some sort of outdoor or environmental role. I was already quite passionate about looking after New Zealand’s flora and fauna, so moving into a field work position for DOC made sense.

I went through the Nelson NMIT Trainee Ranger course last year which included an awesome three month work placement at Nelson Lakes National Park. I then managed to get a two year placement with the West Coast Conservancy.

Sacha holding a chainsaw about to cut through a large log.

Chainsaw training on NMIT Trainee Ranger course

What was your highlight from the month just gone?

Catching and weighing one of the newly released sub-adult great spotted kiwi/roroa by myself. ‘Stamper’ usually runs off before you get to it’s burrow and is generally quite hard to catch.

The rule of three…

Three loves

  1. Kayaking around Whangaroa Harbour
  2. Mountain biking
  3. Swimming at the waterfall back home in Kerikeri

    Sacha with friend amongst twisted, snow covered trees, wrapped up warm, packs on backs.

    Tramping along cone ridge on the Tararua Ranges

Three pet peeves

  1. Rubbish on the beach
  2. People who don’t compost their organic waste
  3. Supermarket trolleys that don’t steer properly

Three favourite foods

  1. Lindt sea salt chocolate
  2. Cream cheese
  3. Good musli

Three favourite places in New Zealand

  1. Rarawa Beach in Northland
  2. Kahurangi National Park
  3. The Mussel Inn

    Sacha walking down a steep, tussock covered hillside.

    Tramping near Dunn Mountain

Favourite movie, album, book

  1. Movie: Don’t really have a favourite—anything directed by the Cohen bros is usually pretty good
  2. Album: Anything by electronic duo Pitch Black
  3. Book: I have just been given the massive 500 page + (!) reference book on New Zealand native trees, currently my favourite book for plant ID

Deep and meaningful…

Who or what inspires you and why?

The retired volunteers that contribute to our community conservation projects, particularly the Brook Waimarama Sanctuary in Nelson. It’s great so see these people still out there in their 70s, putting in so much time and dedication to pest control and track clearing.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A sculptor or some sort of artist.

And now, if you weren’t working at DOC, what would you want to be?

In a role involved with environmental education.

Sacha in takahe suit posing with Mitre 10 'Big is Good' giant Levi Vaoga and a small girl.

Me as takahē for a Mitre 10 Mega opening

What sustainability tip would you like to pass on?

Try to buy second hand as much as possible, and of course get on a bike or walk. It’s amazing how much shopping you can fit on a bike.

Which green behaviour would you like to adopt this year—at home?

Buying in bulk so we don’t end up with so much plastic food packaging to deal with.

If you could be any New Zealand native species for a day, what would you be and why?

Thats a hard one to choose… Perhaps a fantail/piwakawaka—they have quite a bit of character and it would be pretty fun to do such acrobatic moves in mid air.

What piece of advice or message would you want to give to New Zealanders when it comes to conservation?

Appreciate what we have. Aotearoa is pretty dam unique and educating the next generation about respecting and protecting it is crucial.