A day in the life of DOC’s Rangers

Department of Conservation —  31/07/2015

Today is World Ranger Day, a chance to celebrate the work our rangers do across Aotearoa everyday.

So, what sort of things do they get up to on an average day? 

8.30 am

Home Hill Hut upgrade

We begin our day with Queenstown ranger, Will McBeth, who’s braving cold temperatures and heavy snow to upgrade Home Hill Hut, above the Caples Valley.

Will McBeth outside Home Hill Hut, above the Caples Valley.

Will McBeth outside Home Hill Hut, above the Caples Valley

Home Hill Hut lies in the Caples Conservation Area, about 1,000 metres above the valley floor. Perched just above the tree line, it commands great views of the surrounding mountains.

Home Hill Hut.

Home Hill Hut

Although Will has made the hut weatherproof, he thinks visitors might still meet a couple of mice during their stay.

“Keep your food tucked away overnight, or you could go hungry in the morning,” he says.

10.00 am

Getting familiar with Fox Glacier

It’s a beautiful morning on the West Coast and Franz Josef Visitor Centre Ranger, Tawny Hardy, is getting up close with Fox Glacier on a guided tour.

“It’s good to have personal experience with the activities I am selling at the Visitor Centre.

Tawny Hardy exploring Fox Glacier.

Fresh white snow on Fox Glacier

“We got to explore some awesome ice arches and compression caves, and learn how and why they form. We were also lucky enough to have a fresh white powder snow covering the glacier, which is what essentially makes the glaciers!

“I’m now a novice glaciologist… if only.

Exploring a compression cave at Fox Glacier.

Compression cave at Fox Glacier

“We managed to find ourselves some safe places to bum slide down some of the steeper sections on the way back to the helicopter pad.

“It was a great experience and I can now highly recommend it to customers.

“I’ll be able to let them know what is required, if they are interested in the guided tours, and also share my knowledge on the surrounding areas.

“I can now authoritatively say ‘no sorry, unfortunately there are no penguins or polar bears on the glaciers!’”

10.30 am

Licence to dive

Mark Martini.

Mark Martini

It’s morning tea time in Hokitika, and ranger Mark Martini is enjoying a hot brew, doing the quiz and contemplating his studies towards the ADAS occupational dive qualification.

“I’m considering which gas physics law(s) to apply to calculate the final volume of air in an open cylinder containing 20 litres of air at 8 metre depth of seawater or 1.8 ATA (atmospheres absolute) with a temperature of 24°C if that cylinder was lowered to 23 metre depth or 3.3 ATA and air temperature in the cylinder lowered to 10°C.”

“Clearly there is a pressure-induced reduction in volume (but increase in air density), so Boyle’s law will apply, but also there will be a reduction in volume via reduced temperature, so Charles’s law also will apply.

“Can these be calculated separately, and the total volume summed, or do the laws influence each other and need to be calculated concurrently in a more complicated equation?”

The answer? “More coffee!”

11.00 am

Westland petrel / tāiko research

Down Buller way, Ritske De Vries and Guinevere Coleman accompany researchers from Te Papa to the Westland petrel/tāiko colony in the Paparoa National Park.

Ranger holding a Westland petrel / tāiko.

Holding a Westland petrel / tāiko

The crew are retrieving GPS loggers attached to adult breeding birds. The loggers are used determine feeding grounds and any interaction with fishing boats.

The rest of the day is spent learning the survey method that DOC staff use to determine breeding numbers in colonies.

Clearing rockfall, Old Ghost Road

Meanwhile, Simon Abel, Ross Thomas and Dean Scarlett are clearing rockfall along a well known slip on the Lyell, which forms part of the soon-to-be-completed Old Ghost Road.

Rangers clearing a rockfall along a well-known clip on Old Ghost Road.

Clearing rockfall along a well-known clip on Old Ghost Road

12.30 pm

Te Apiti – Manawatu Gorge Project

Nina Mercer and Chloe Barnes on the Te Apiti Manawatu Gorge walk.

Nina Mercer and Chloe Barnes on the Te Apiti Manawatu Gorge walk

It’s lunchtime in Palmerston North, but Nina Mercer and Clint Purches are at a core group meeting for the Manawatu Gorge Biodiversity Project.

This is an important collaborative partnership between DOC, local government agencies, iwi, landowners, and community and recreation groups.

Over the last 10 years DOC has worked as part of this group to develop Te Apiti – Manawatu Gorge.

“We want the Gorge to be a diverse and beautiful example of New Zealand’s native plant and bird species and an important recreational destination for walkers, runners and mountain bikers.”

There’s much to discuss, and the project is a great example of the some of the exciting projects that we get to be involved in.

1.00 pm

A crayfish call out at Tapuae Marine Reserve

Ranger Callum Lilley is working at his desk in New Plymouth when he receives a call from a member of the public.

“It’s a beautiful day with a calm sea and I’m reluctantly in front of my computer focusing on some urgent tasks.

“I receive a call from a member of the public about large numbers of crayfish pots in Tapuae Marine Reserve.

“I grab Conservation Services Ranger Greg Evans and we leap into action. We launch the DOC vessel ‘Orca’ and head off to investigate.

“We find the pots were just outside the marine reserve boundary. We took the opportunity to give the marine reserve marker buoys a good scrub and to eat lunch with a beautiful view of Mounga (Maunga) Taranaki.”

2.00 pm

Cadet connection, Tongariro

Annette Richards, a Taupo Trout Fishery ranger, is exploring Tongariro River with Nikau, a 15-year-old cadet who’s never been to the area before.

As they walk and talk, they discover patches of river track that never thaw out.

“We discovered fascinating ice formations growing out from blades of grass and wildflower stalks as the previous night had been particularly freezing, and thought: ’Nature is a rock star!’

Further along the path we came across a beautiful, clear, deep pool with fish in it.

We skimmed stones and contemplated whether we would have the guts to jump in from the cliffs above us. Regardless of our wavering bravado, this place was tagged in our minds as our new local swimming spot, next summer.

“While we stood on the large shingle beach, we noticed a tangled mess of giant boulders and trees, washed downstream by recent floods. As you do, we went to investigate by climbing all over them. We found strands of fishing line, with flies still attached, like precious gems.

“‘Treasure!’ my friend exclaimed, ’these probably cost $4 each new!’

“The whole way back to the ute Nikau shared stories about his life, his knowledge of the area, his realisations, his aspirations, passions and goals.

“Just like that, we were connected to this place and each other. It reminded me of how important it is to make every interaction count and to enjoy the little things in life, because one day you look back and realise they were the big things.”

Rotoehu Forest weed survey

Meanwhile, in Rotoehu Forest in central Bay of Plenty, ranger Paul Cashmore, is completing a weed survey. He’s working in several blocks of regenerating native forest on public conservation land.

The area has recently been returned to iwi, as part of their Treaty settlement.

“I’m spending the whole day on this one – and it’s a nice day to be out in the bush by yourself!”

Paul Cashmore completes a weed survey.

Ranger Paul Cashmore, completing a weed survey

2.30 pm

Monitoring New Zealand shore plover on Waikawa Island

Helen Jonas is on Waikawa, a Māori-owned island off the end of Mahia Peninsula in Hawke’s Bay.

“I’m nearing the end of my monitoring of the New Zealand shore plover, a critically endangered coastal bird.

“There’re only a couple of hundred in the world, and we have about 40 on this island. The birds have been translocated here.

Helen Jonas on the beach looking for shore plovers through binoculars.

Helen Jonas on the lookout for New Zealand shore plovers

“The tide’s coming in so I have to be quick before the birds start roosting. At high tide, while the rock platform of food is covered up, they tend to crouch down or stand on one leg.

Either way, it makes it tricky to read their leg band combos and tick them off the roll call list!

A New Zealand shore plover.

Call me Uncle!

“This is my one shot a month over winter to check the birds are all doing okay. I’m on the island just for three hours.

“There are also a couple of trappers servicing the traps and checking the tracking tunnels to ensure no predators have arrived and our vulnerable shore plover will be safe. Then we all helicopter off the island.

“One of the shore plover has the nickname ‘Uncle’ – as he is often seen with the newly released juveniles showing them the ropes.”

4.00 pm

‘Dogging’ for rodents in Whangarei

Closing in on the end of the day, and Ranger Miriam Ritchie is unloading the DOC boat back at the Whangarei office after being on an island trip ‘dogging’ for rodents with Woody the dog.

Miriam Ritchie and Woody the dog on a boat.

Miriam Ritchie and Woody the dog return from a hard day’s work

4.30 pm

Sniffing out rats in the Far North

We finish the day in the Far North with another pooch, who’s dog tired!

Tike is wrapped up snug in a DOC jersey, taking a well-earned snooze after a hard day’s yakka sniffing out rats.

Tike the dog sleeping in a jacket after a hard days work.

Tired Tike the dog curls up for a well-earned rest

“The 31st of July is World Ranger Day. It is a time for the world to reflect on many aspects of the ranger’s work and life. We honour and remember those rangers who have lost their lives in the line of duty. We reflect on progress made, and obstacles still to overcome. And we celebrate the bravery, tenacity and dedication of those rangers who give their all in the service of nature.” ~ Sean Willmore, President, International Ranger Federation

I honour and thank the planet's park rangers.

2 responses to A day in the life of DOC’s Rangers


    A great variety of useful and interesting things you folks are doing!


    Happy World Rangers Day to all DOC Rangers. You guys do an awesome job – get to see some stunning NZ scenery and wildlife but we would all be lost with out you so thanks.