Jobs at DOC: Thelma Wilson – Biodiversity Ranger

Department of Conservation —  30/11/2012

Come behind the scenes and into the jobs, the challenges, the highlights, and the personalities of the people who work at the Department of Conservation (DOC).

Today we profile Thelma Wilson, Biodiversity Ranger – Warkworth/Great Barrier Area

Thelma Wilson holding a giant petrel.

Are you sure the ute runs on petrel?

Name: Thelma Wilson.

Position: Biodiversity Ranger and Area Compliance Officer, Warkworth/Great Barrier Area.

At work…

What kind of things do you do in your role?

Try to separate the fish from the fishers in marine reserves, dispose of dead whales, improve a variety of habitat and chances of survival for a range of species on mainland New Zealand, run programmes aimed at animal pest control and eradication, keep boundary fences intact, deal with land management issues and spend a lot of time chasing a mouse around on my desk! (and relieve on the odd island as needed).

Thelma Wilson with a kakapo on Codfish Island.

Codfish Island – delivering lunch

What is the best part about your job?

Floating around the Goat Island marine reserve at 6am on a fine, calm morning and not finding anyone fishing in it. Acting as the relieving ranger on Little Barrier is pretty cool too, even if it is an island.

What is the hardest part about your job?

Having to continually say “Sorry, we can’t,” to people who would like DOC help with a project that is probably quite worthwhile, but is so far down our priority list that we are not going to get near it.

Thelma Wilson with a stranded orca.

Keeping an orca cool while waiting for the tide

What led you to your role in DOC?

A long history of working and playing in the New Zealand backcountry. And the misguided idea that if I moved further north, I’d do more diving and the water would be warmer….

What was your highlight from the month just gone?

Work wise, it was whale euthanasia training with staff from Northland – and not just because we were shooting large holes in drums full of water – it was great to spend time with the other marine mammal folks from the north without the stress of a dead whale(s) to deal with.

But as a Coastguard volunteer it was getting the tow angle just right and pulling an upside down 9m catamaran the right way up, without damaging it, in a 45knot head wind, out the back of Kawau Island!

Thelma Wilson snorkeling with a manta ray in Indonesia.

Snorkelling with Manta rays, Komodo, Indonesia

The rule of three…

3 loves:

  1. Underwater visibility  20m+.
  2. Flat sections of track that aren’t muddy.
  3. Having a good thrash around in the boat when the sea would send most people home.

3 pet peeves:

  1. People not putting it back where they got it from.
  2. Putting it back broken and not saying anything.
  3. People putting all their junk in front of the boat, so I have to move it!

3 foods:

  1. Crayfish.
  2. Scallops.
  3. Venison.

3 favourite places in New Zealand:

  1. Around 30m deep in Northern Arch, at the Poor Knights, in the middle of a huge school of pelargics.
  2. Anywhere around Lake Waikaremoana.
  3. Watching the sunset from West Landing, Little Barrier.

Favourite movie, album, book:

  • Movies (um – what’s a movie?).
  • Album: nothing springs to mind, I generally listen to any music – (ok, there is a  leaning to Irish artists, but I think that’s because they have been on “special” back when people actually bought CDs…).
  • Book: I’ve been doing quite a bit of reading on hiking the Camino de Santiago recently – research for my next trip.
Thelma Wilson with her team on Raoul Island.

Rat eradication team, Raoul Island

Deep and meaningful…

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

Insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result!

Who or what inspires you and why?

Busy people who are passionate about their interests and make the time to get involved and make a difference.

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

A ranger (hey, when I was a kid the careers advice teacher correctly pointed out that “they don’t take girls – choose something else!”

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

A wilderness guide, so I could show more people that we have treasures worth fighting for.

What sustainability tip would you like to pass on?

If you aren’t using it, give it to someone who will.

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

Learn to use TradeMe (on dial up) and community networks to find new homes for all that stuff stashed in the basement that hasn’t been used in the past two years!

Stranded pilot whales.

Stranding – pilot whales, Mahurangi Pen

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

A fur seal – lazing around eyeballing fish, sneaking up on divers and frightening the bubbles out of them, and parking on the wharf having my photo taken by all the tourists. But I’d be smart enough not to grab the long line hooks!

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

We live in a pretty special part of the globe, get out there and explore it, and get involved in looking after it – whether that’s by pulling out a weed, not washing your car over a storm water grate, or by organising a community group, it’s your country, look after it.

Thelma Wilson in the Torres del Paine National Park, Chile.

Torres del Paine National Park, Chile