Jobs at DOC: Kerry Weston, Scientific Officer

Department of Conservation —  29/05/2015

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 Kerry Weston, Scientific Officer based in Christchurch.

Kerry Weston holding two rock wren caught at Lake Roe, Fiordland.

Rock wren catching at Lake Roe, Fiordland

At work…

Some things I do in my job include:

I’m currently working on research projects that are aimed at conserving alpine biodiversity. This involves developing monitoring methods for species in the alpine zone (e.g. rock wren and stoats), establishing predator control programmes above in these zones and monitoring the outcomes for our threatened species.

This helps achieve DOC’s vision by:

Currently there is uncertainty around the extent to which management of alpine predators is required. This is largely because we have little understanding of how predation risk in these areas varies seasonally, annually or geographically. I’m working towards increasing our understanding of alpine ecology and developing best practice management tools to reverse declines in alpine biodiversity.

The best bit about my job is:

I get to focus on alpine ecology and work with really passionate and committed people and spend time in the mountains with my favourite species, the rock wren.

Sirocco the kākāpō climbing on Kerry Weston's head.

Sirocco the kākāpō attempting to mate with my head

The strangest DOC moment I’ve had so far is:

Being tasked with conserving an entire population (6,175) of critically endangered snails in captivity, due to the mining of their native habitat on the West Coast of the South Island.

There was also the time Sirocco the kākāpō attempted to mate with my head. We were often too afraid to go to the toilet at night because we knew that Sirocco was waiting in the bushes to ambush us during the breeding season.

The DOC employee that inspires me most is:

Kath Walker, for acknowledging the pecking order of conservation and breaking it down! That is, bigger isn’t always better; bright and fluffy does not always beat slow and slimy and every species deserves a voice, irrespective of how much revenue it can generate.

Kerry Weston chasing and catching rock wren in the Murchison Mountains.

Catching rock wren in the Murchison Mountains

On a personal note…

Most people don’t know that:

I did my Masters in Nigeria, describing the pollination and dispersal ecology of African montane mistletoes.

My happy place is:

Somewhere high in the mountains, within an intact ecosystem full of native alpine species, in perfect weather, with a camera.

My biggest pet peeve is:

Fear.

In my spare time:

I love taking my dog Lily possum hunting in local reserves. I walk, she hunts. It pleases me that she shares my passion for conservation (actually, she just loves carrying the possums home and eating them).

Kerry Weston's dog Lily with a possum caught in the reserve in Ravensbourne.

Lily with a possum caught in the reserve in Ravensbourne

If I wasn’t working at DOC, I’d like to:

Retire.

Deep and meaningful…

My favourite quote is:

“Peace for the heart: Life in the mountains.” – Santoka

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

Chill out.

In work and life I am motivated by:

Passion, commitment, enthusiasm.

My conservation advice to New Zealanders is:

Give a damn, it’s that simple. If you really care about the environment we live in, there are so many ways you can make a difference; the opportunities are endless.

Kerry Weston alongside others in the Himalayas.

Trip to Nepal in 2005

Question of the week…

If you could wake up tomorrow having gained one quality or ability, what would it be?

An exceptional memory