Jobs at DOC: Jennifer Germano, Kiwi Recovery Group Leader

Department of Conservation —  17/01/2014

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 Jennifer Germano, Technical Advisor Ecology/Kiwi Recovery Group Leader based in Hamilton.

Jen and an Ascaphus frog.

Finding my first Ascaphus frog in Canada, along with New Zealand’s native frogs this species is one of the world’s most archaic frog species

At work

Some things I do in my job include… helping to coordinate conservation efforts for kiwi across the country. The Kiwi Recovery Group is an amazing group of people, whose expertise covers a range of topics, including kiwi handling and biology, research, community groups, iwi issues, on the ground kiwi operations, predator science, education and advocacy. My job is to help bring together those people with different backgrounds to get technical advice out to kiwi practitioners and DOC staff. I also have the privilege of working with both the Recovery Group and others to develop national strategies for kiwi conservation.

This helps achieve DOC’s vision by… protecting and conserving one of New Zealand’s most iconic species!

The best bit about my job is… the people.  I just started a month ago, but so far, people in the kiwi community and DOC have been incredible. Definitely a friendly and passionate group that have made me feel welcome from day one.

The awesome-est DOC moment I’ve had so far is… meeting with the staff at Kiwi Encounter and seeing the newly hatched baby kiwi there.

The DOC (or previous DOC) employee that inspires or enthuses me most is… James Reardon.  His enthusiasm for conservation and his passion for herpetofauna are contagious.  He’s a great biologist, an amazing photographer and a good person to be in the field with, whether it was hanging out with the skink crew in Central Otago or searching for frogs in the Amazon. James was one of the first biologists I worked with when I first arrived in New Zealand over ten years ago and he helped to introduce me to the wildlife and the unique conservation problems that we face here.  Also, while some people are scientists and others are more interested in on-the-ground wildlife management, James showed that it was possible and advantageous to blend the two in order to help save a species from extinction.

Jen packrafting in the Colorado River.

Packrafting in the Colorado River

On a personal note…

My most recent stomping ground was… Red Rock Canyon in Southern Nevada, USA.  I just returned to New Zealand after doing translocation research on desert tortoises in the Mojave Desert for the last few years.  Red Rock had some of the best rock climbing in the states, plus it was a beautiful corner of the Mojave full of wildlife (desert tortoises, big horn sheep, snakes, lizards) and amazing landscapes.  I’m still finding my way around Hamilton and looking for some new stomping grounds around here.

If I could trade places with any other person for a week—famous or not famous, living or dead, real or fictional—it would be… Jane Goodall while she was working with the chimpanzees in Gombe Stream National Park, Tanzania.  She was able to combine being a conservationist, a scientist, a mother, and an educator and has inspired people worldwide to care about, not only the chimps in Africa, but about protecting the environment and the world that we live in.

Jen radio tracking desert tortoises in the Mojave Desert.

Radio tracking desert tortoises in the Mojave Desert

My best ever holiday was… spending a summer in Ecuador with my sister.  We were living with some families down there learning Spanish and because our travel agent messed up some of our plans, they squeezed us into a couple empty spaces on a boat visiting the Galapagos to pay us back. It was the trip of a lifetime. Amazing wildlife!  Albatross mating, blue-footed booby birds, giant tortoises, marine iguanas. We snorkelled with sea turtles and seals, snuck up on some flamingos, and stood in the shallow waters on a beach while the sting rays washed over our feet with the incoming waves.  It was an amazing adventure to share with my sister… I wish I could go back again one day!

My greatest sporting moment was when… I finished the Memphis Road Race Series, which included two 5k, two 5-mile, two 10k, two 10-mile, and two half marathon races over a 10 week period. It definitely showed that with a bit of hard work and determination, I could accomplish anything and that by surrounding myself with enthusiastic and passionate people, I could be inspired to do things that I never would have attempted on my own.

My secret indulgence is… anything chocolate!

Jen kayaking on the left and tramping on the right.

Left: Kayaking near Vancouver Island Right: Tramping near Mount Cook

Deep and meaningful…

My favourite quote is… Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning how to dance in the rain.

The best piece of advice I’ve ever been given is… go out and do something amazing.

In work and life I am motivated by… the fact that we are all capable of making the world a better place in some way, whether it is big or small.

My conservation advice to New Zealanders is… take the time to help others appreciate the natural world around them. Passion for conservation can be contagious, so share your love of the outdoors and help others to get outside.  It’s only when people understand and have a connection to nature that they’ll make the effort to help protect it.

Jen and family at the Vernal Falls, USA.

Family camping trip at Yosemite National Park, USA.

Question of the week…

What did you want to be ‘when you grew up?

I thought I wanted to be a palaeontologist. I had quite a collection of rocks with little fossils in them that I had found behind my parents’ home and as a kid always had dreams of finding a dinosaur. When I started uni, I did a heap of geology papers and then spent my first summer as a palaeontology intern. But after spending 40 hours a week staring through a microscope sorting out microfossils from buckets of sand, I decided that I’d rather be in the field studying animals that were still alive rather than the remains of dead ones.