Jobs at DOC: Catherine Brimecombe, Biodiversity Ranger

Department of Conservation —  30/05/2014

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 Catherine Brimecombe, Biodiversity Ranger at the Te Anau Wildlife Park

At work

Some things I do in my job include:

Cleaning aviaries, preparing bird food, arranging ‘enrichment’ for kea and kaka, guiding groups for daily takahē feeding and weekly ‘Breakfast with the Birds’ events through summer.

Catherine sitting with a group of children from a local school.

At work with a group of children from one of our local schools

This helps achieve DOC’s vision by:

Helping people meet birds! People get to come into the takahē enclosure and spend time watching Tumbles, Kawa, Hebe and Monty. Judging by the wonder that people express, I am confident these encounters won’t be forgotten. When something stirs your heart, there’s no limit to the possibilities. Our ambassador birds are inspiring!

The funniest (retrospectively) DOC moment I’ve had so far was:

Arriving at work one morning to find the kea cage wide open. The lack of a note from the Animal Liberation Front told me that I had failed to padlock the outer door correctly. The birds had opened the inner door and enjoyed a night of freedom. Now they were sitting on top of the aviary eyeing me smugly. I remember the sensation of my blood running cold, I was so horrified (I was pretty new in the job). Luckily three of the four birds simply returned to their favourite perches when they were due for a sleep and the fourth was caught a day or two later without having come to harm.

The DOC (or previous DOC) employee that inspires or enthuses me most is:

I am surrounded by extraordinarily hard working and committed people, I couldn’t pick one.

On a personal note…

Most people don’t know that:

I am Australian by birth.

My stomping ground is:

My childhood stomping ground was the Tukituki River in Hawkes Bay. The river is part of me. A few years ago I took my daughter back to swim where I swam during those endless summers of childhood, and we found a sign warning the public to avoid contact with the water.

Catherine holding a kiwi at Lake Manapouri.

Volunteering for the Pomona Island Charitable Trust on one of Lake Manapouri’s kiwi crèche islands

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:

Tank Girl. If you don’t know who she is, best you don’t look her up.

My best ever holiday was:

Tonga, last winter, because I had never snorkelled before. No matter how many fantastic reef life documentaries you watch, nothing can prepare you for seeing the real thing. That’s why my job, helping people to meet birds, matters.

In my spare time:

I weed bust and bird watch.

If I could be any New Zealand native species I’d be:

Mohua, because they are so absolutely engaged in everything they do, and I love the way they use their whole bodies when they are fossicking for insects.

Catherine having her hair dyed.

NOT a natural redhead!

Deep and meaningful…

My favourite quote is:

‘We judge ourselves by our intentions, others judge us by our actions’.

The best piece of advice I’ve ever been given is:

’Your body is not a temple, it is an adventure playground’ (Oh, wait, that was the worst advice…)

In work and life I am motivated by:

The conviction that today is special and I need to wring as much pleasure and productivity out of it as I can!

The crowds at Te Anau Wildlife Park watching the takahē and duck.

Tarks (and duck!) in action, wowing the crowds

My conservation advice to New Zealanders is: 

Conservation goes well with company. Find out if there is a local weed busting, community nursery or predator control group in your area, they’ll welcome your help.

Question of the week…

My favourite planet?  Earth. Unless Planet Takahē is found to exist I am definitely picking Earth, only known home to takahē, and, of course, chocolate.