Volunteer spotlight: David Roscoe

Department of Conservation —  29/06/2012

Every Friday Jobs at DOC takes 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, to celebrate our amazing conservation volunteers, we shine the limelight on volunteer David Roscoe…

Name: David Roscoe

Position: Volunteer, imaging tiny objects in sharp focus. Three half-days a week, usually in the level two laboratory at DOC’s National Office.

Dave in DOC’s old lab at Victoria University

What kind of things do you do in your DOC volunteer role?

Photographing small objects in sharp focus, by merging numerous images taken at different foci using very cold light (otherwise the shell melts or is vaporized).

Producing snail posters and snail identification CDs. Snail surveys and identifying snails for DOC staff. Producing a toolbox for snail inventory and monitoring.

Left: Kokopapa unispathulata from Kaikoura. Middle top: Allodiscus from Wainuiomata. Middle bottom: Aeschrodomus stipulata from Kaka Point. Right: Liarea ornata from Matakana

What is the best part of your work?

Working with DOC staff in a pleasant working environment and receiving leaf mould containing snails from unusual locations.

What is the hardest part about your work?

Separating pictures of hairy snails and beetles from their background, pixel by pixel.

Dave looking at a tiny (pin prick-sized) still un-named snail species under a microscope. This snail was found on Great Mercury Island

What led you to your role in DOC?

Meeting inspiring people, then opportunity to pursue a long-held interest in landsnails (since 1964).

What was your highlight from the month just gone?

Very positive feedback about a poster and a quantitative snail survey I had done for, and on, Hen Island.

The rule of three…

Three loves

  1. My supportive wife Jenni.
  2. Advertising our huge diversity of small native land snails. So far over 460 species have been named with an estimated total of 1200–2000. Most are small – under 3 mm – and easily overlooked. In relation to area we have one of the most diverse land snail faunas in the world – compare this with Great Britain (of similar area) with 220 species. Also, at some localities over 60 species have been found living together, twice the highest diversity recorded anywhere else.
  3. Playing classical piano music, currently mostly Russian.

Three pet peeves

  1. Doing little about overpopulation.
  2. Tall poppy syndrome.
  3. Reflex green-bashing.

Three foods

  1. Homemade bread.
  2. Wellington’s sophisticated food variety.
  3. Jenni’s cooking.

Three favourite places in New Zealand

  1. Hen Island at dawn (dawn chorus).
  2. A grassy hillside patch surrounded by bush in the Wakarara Range near Hastings.
  3. The stunning beauty of much of the Wainuiomata Waterworks Reserve!


  1. Movie: The Warriors (Ancient Greek saga, set in today’s New York gangs).
  2. Album: Complete Piano Works of Federico Mompou.
  3. Book: Fredric Brown, Nightmares and Geezenstacks (SF mostly)

Dave in the lab checking out a new species of snail

Deep and meaningful:

What piece of advice would you tell your 18 year old self?

Forget pharmacy (from which I am now retired), go to university – the student talent is awesome and you are much less likely to get armed holdups.

And, laugh more.

Who or what inspires you and why?

My piano teacher, she just scored a QSM. She is patient with my foolishness. Also, most of the DOC staff, hardworking and passionate about their work.

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


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

Working as a DOC volunteer.

What sustainability tip would you like to pass on?

Many sustainability problems relate to population levels. Individuals cannot solve overpopulation on their own. We could encourage politicians to include population optimisation in their manifestos.

Which green behaviour would you like to adopt this year – at home? At work?

  • At home, trenching or composting garden and food rubbish.
  • At work, always turning off unneeded lights and somehow being able to switch off the exhaust fan when absent.

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

A kākāpō, being indulged and well looked after in a safe habitat.

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

We live in the best living space on Earth bar none. Please don’t ruin it.