Meet the Marine Ecosystems Team

Department of Conservation —  14/09/2015

Come behind the scenes and into the jobs and personalities of the people who work at DOC.

Today we profile DOC’s Marine Ecosystems Team in National Office, Wellington.

The Marine Ecosystems Team

Welcome to our wet and wild world! Introducing the Marine Ecosystems Team, the coolest kids on the block and some of the most passionate marine-ies you will ever come across. So without further ado, meet the team:

The Marine Ecosystems Team at Punakaiki. Photo: L. Wakelin, DOC.

The team at Punakaiki

• Sean Cooper, Manager
• Clinton Duffy, Technical Advisor
• Debbie Freeman, Science Advisor
• Don Neale, Technical Advisor
• Emma Hill, Technical Advisor
• Greig Funnell, Technical Advisor
• Helen Curtis, GIS Analyst
• Helen Kettles, Technical Advisor
• Irene Pohl, Technical Advisor
• Kath Blakemore, Technical Advisor
• Laura Wakelin, Technical Advisor
• Leana Barriball, Strategic Cultural Advisor
• Megan Linwood, Technical Advisor
• Shane Geange, Science Advisor
• Vincent Zintzen, Science Advisor

Don Neale hard at work counting invertebrates during a survey dive in Poor Knights Islands Marine Reserve. Photo: V. Zintzen, DOC.

Don Neale hard at work counting invertebrates

What’s your team’s role at DOC? What work do you do?

At the forefront of our work is the government’s goal to establish a nationwide network of marine protected areas, representing New Zealand’s marine ecosystems. To achieve this, we work with other teams at DOC, our partners and other external organisations, providing expertise in developing systems and processes to support marine conservation.

Together with DOC’s Marine Species and Threats Team, we lead research and development programmes for understanding and managing estuarine and marine environments and protected species such as marine mammals and deep sea corals. We are involved in the development and reform of legislation governing the marine environment and are supporting the creation of a 50-year marine strategy to support DOC’s work in the marine environment.

Our diverse mix of expertise and skills are called on not just throughout DOC and the wider New Zealand community but on an international scale as well. To give you a taste of what the team specialises in, here is some of our work at glance: marine protected areas planning, implementation and management; advice and research related to the design and analysis of experimental and monitoring studies, marine ecology and biology; marine species identifications (algae, invertebrates, fishes, marine mammals); marine data analysis, modelling and remote sensing; scuba diving surveys of marine life; community partnership programmes in the estuarine and marine space; information support for the restoration of estuaries; conservation prioritisation; ecological integrity in the marine environment; development of marine cultural indicators; ecosystem services and the list goes on!

Debbie Freeman amongst the stunning kelp forest (Macrocystis pyrifera) in Ulva Island-Te Wharawhara Marine Reserve. Photo: V. Zintzen, DOC.

Debbie Freeman amongst the stunning kelp forest

What are your team’s favourite things?

Our team are all about enjoying what our beautiful moana/ocean has to offer, whether it’s on the beach soaking up the rays (a few in the team are professional sunbathers during summer), out on the water catching a feed or under the waves capturing stunning underwater scenes on camera.

What are your team’s pet peeves?

Seeing a cigarette butt flying out of a hand into the gutter. In the immortal words of Gill from Finding Nemo, “all drains lead to the ocean kid”!

An appropriate marine meme. Image:

What is the hardest part about your team’s work?

Marine conservation can be challenging work. There is still so much to discover about our oceans and a lack of knowledge and understanding can sometimes cause people to get caught up in what we don’t know rather than what we can do—and we can do a lot!

What is the best part of your job?

Well, it’s not all fun and games being part of the marine team – but we admit we love the odd excursion out into the field when the opportunity arises.

It’s the small things that keep us sane when we’re digging away at the paper mountains. Helping field staff working in our marine estate (we sometimes live vicariously through them) or getting awesome feedback from external partners gives us the warm fuzzies

Litter surveys along the beach at Long Island – Kokomohua Marine Reserve. Photo: V. Zintzen, DOC.

Litter surveys along the beach at Long Island – Kokomohua Marine Reserve

What is coming up for your team?

The team are currently providing advice, tools and guidance for selecting viable Marine Protected Areas and supporting current forums such as South East Marine Protection Forum and Sea Change – Tai Timu Tai Pari, the Hauraki Gulf Marine Spatial Plan.

Another current area of work is Ecologically Representative Marine Areas, a project that explores approaches for identifying sets of areas that collectively represent the full range of marine biodiversity occurring in the oceans around New Zealand.

The team is also continuing to work closely with our partners at Air New Zealand to grow awareness of and participation in New Zealand’s marine environment (the best playground in the world)

Air New Zealand staff on a boat at Long Island – Kokomohua Marine Reserve. Photo:V. Zintzen, DOC.

Our Air New Zealand partners at Long Island – Kokomohua Marine Reserve

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