Jobs at DOC: Research Technician, Nic Gorman

Department of Conservation —  14/03/2014

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 Nic Gorman, Research Technician based in Hamilton.

At work

Some things I do in my job include… acting as a link between our field team scattered around the country, and the project leader sitting at the desk beside mine. So that mainly entails getting traps and other equipment to where they’re needed, collating and auditing the data coming in, and doing what I can to keep the people at both ends of the equation happy.

Unfortunately we went and hired a very capable group for our field team, so it’s not that often that I get dragged out of the office to help them out in person.

Nic holding a falcon at Wingspan in Rotorua.

In my ‘happy place’, meeting Atareta at the Wingspan Trust, Rotorua

This helps achieve DOC’s vision by… keeping the Department up to pace with the latest developments in pest control technology, figuring out if these things are of use to us and if so in what scenarios, and further extending the range of tools we have available to us in the battle against the pests.

The best bit about my job is… being involved when what could potentially be the next big step-up in ground-based predator control hits the ground. It is pretty exciting (and a thought that helps me get through the most stressful days). Also, getting to know the great bunch of people who have been out there doing the groundwork for us, both the current team and their various predecessors.

The loveliest DOC moment I’ve had so far is… any time spent sitting under a pair of kōkako singing at full blast is right up there.

One time that particularly sticks in my memory is a morning I had a volunteer in tow. A few minutes into the song peak he pulled out his phone, rang his disabled sister, and just quietly said, “listen to this”.

I’m glad to have been part of someone experiencing something that she probably would never be able to otherwise. Actually I’m choking up a bit just remembering that….

(This, by the way, is not an open invitation for anyone to ever ring me at that time of the morning, whatever it is that you’re listening to at the time!)

The DOC employee that inspires or enthuses me most is… this is the hard one, when just about everyone I’ve met through work has been inspirational in some way. But someone who personifies all the great things about the people who work for the Department is Pete Livingstone, over at Opotiki. He’s someone who has all the knowledge and field nous you’d expect of someone who’s spent a big chunk of their life in the forest, is always keen to upskill with the latest science-driven field techniques, just quietly gets things done whatever life and the environment throws in the way… and so damn humble that he’ll be hating me for singling him out like this!

Nic impersonating a pirate at the Benneydale Research Station.

Working at the Massey University Benneydale Research Station duties included nest-finding, 4WD testing, rat control and even pirate impersonation

On a personal note…

The song that always cheers me up is Buffalo by the Phoenix Foundation, the bounciness of the song more than makes up for the slight biological inaccuracy of the lyrics. Actually pretty much anything by those guys will do the trick.

My best ever holiday was probably my most recent one, an all-too-short trip to New Caledonia late last year, avoiding resorts and trying to get a bit more face-to-face with the place. I got to indulge in all my favourite things, good food, wildlife spotting, orienteering, and while I arrived with little or no expectations, by the time I left I was starting to plot my next visit.

My greatest sporting moment? There’s a handful of age-class national orienteering titles I could point to, but I’m actually prouder of the few years I somehow got myself fit enough to race against the big boys at the elite level (note that I don’t say ‘compete’ at the elite level) and gained a whole new appreciation of just how quick these guys are in the terrain.

If I could be any New Zealand native species I’d be a kākā. Anything that flies would be good, but I’ve always had the impression watching our parrots, that more so than any other birds they’re fully aware just how cool it is being airborne. They have fun with it! And I’m more of a forest guy than a mountain guy, so kākā it is.

Nic face to face with a kagu bird.

Face to face with the kagu, Parc Riviere Bleue, New Caledonia

Before working at DOC in this role, there were many years on the conservation biology contracting circuit working for DOC, regional councils, universities and the like, in mostly, but not always, field-based roles. Everything from operating traplines in the Mackenzie Country, hauling sugar water up Kapiti Island for the benefit of hihi, editing Regional Park resource documents, and most recently running the field operations of a Massey University research programme looking into the ecology of forest remnants in an otherwise modified landscape. It’s fascinating every Friday reading of the different pathways people have taken to DOC, and I feel a bit dull by comparison, but I guess I’m lucky to have almost always been doing what I wanted to do for as long as I can remember.

Deep and meaningful…

My favourite quote is “You cannot reason somebody out of a position they did not reason themselves into” – Mark Twain, I believe. It’s almost as if he anticipated the internet as a forum for ‘debate’.

The best piece of advice I’ve ever been given is that sometimes it’s a good idea to pay attention when people are handing out advice. Unfortunately I can’t attribute this to anyone in particular, I just have this vague sense that somebody has probably told me this at some point.

Nic robin tracking at the Massey University Benneydale Research Station.

Robin tracking at the Massey University Benneydale Research Station

In work and life I am motivated by the idea of making a difference.

My conservation advice to New Zealanders is to get out there in amongst nature, discover what we’ve got, and the chances are you’ll enjoy it enough that you’ll then want to look into how you can contribute to keeping it.

Ahuriri Valley.

Whenever I start feeling desk-bound and thinking about the things I miss about fieldwork, those delightful spring afternoons in the Ahuriri Valley are usually up near the top of the list

Question of the week…

If you had to be a comic character, which one would you be and why?

As long as there was always a supply of magic potion handy, then sign me up as one of the Gauls from Asterix. Just a shame that if we could make that happen, the powers-that-be would probably decide that the best fit for me would be Cacofonix, the bard.