Tongariro Summer Ranger — the best job ever!

Department of Conservation —  16/02/2016

By Sian Moffitt, Tongariro Summer Ranger

Over the summer I have been given so many amazing opportunities to get out and experience what DOC has on offer as a Tongariro Summer Ranger.

As a keen environmentalist working here has been ‘a dream come true’. I’ve had amazing experiences day after day!

My first day working with Check, Clean, Dry: A Wetsuit dipping station for the Half Ironman.

My first day working with Check, Clean, Dry: A Wetsuit dipping station for the Half Ironman

On my first day of work we released two kiwi at Wairakei Golf + Sanctuary. Retallick the larger kiwi chick (named after All Black Brody Retallick) was 39 days old and weighed 602 grams. The other kiwi was 61 days old, and weighed in at 443 grams and didn’t yet have a name.

I was so lucky to hold the unnamed ginger kiwi chick while ranger Jenny put on its transmitter. This was a very special moment for me. But it was an even bigger deal as the unique ginger kiwi was a sibling of New Zealand’s first ginger kiwi chick, Kindara which my school Tauhara College had sponsored with their sister school Kindai in Japan last year. This was the start of a great day and marked the beginning of the many new experiences coming my way.

In the past six weeks at DOC I have developed so much confidence in my abilities thanks to all of the great opportunities. I have been writing media releases, stories, blogs, updating the website, entering whio data, organising Kids Greening Taupo activities and gaining lots of knowledge from talking to other staff members and researching.

I have been lucky enough to attend the Taupo DOC carving unveiling, worked with the whio/blue ducks at the Turangi National Trout Centre crèche, taken photos of takahē and kārearea chicks, been out on Check, Clean, Dry advocacy runs and helped out with three wetsuit dip stations, assisted  at Tongariro National Trout Centre fish-out days, helped out on the Kaimanawa Horse trip at Waiouru Army Base with the Mahi Aroha summer programme and worked with the “Find a Whio” competition winner and her family.

One of my highlights was working with the whio at Turangi. Initially I attended the training day for volunteers where I learnt how much effort goes into the whio behind the scenes. I then attended both December and January whio releases into the crèche and assisted in one of the health checks. Through working with the whio I have gained knowledge and love being able to answer questions from the public when out and about with DOC.

Another highlight was being able to observe and capture images of the beautiful takahē parents and chick at Wairakei Golf+Sanctuary. This was definitely a special experience and I really enjoyed watching the parents feed the chick and browse in the long grasses. As a passionate photographer any chance I have to photograph our unique New Zealand species, I grab hold of and make the most of the time I am given.

I was also lucky enough to meet the 2015 Conservation week “Find a Whio” winner; eight year old Olive and her family from Blenheim. Her excitement and enthusiasm was infectious. I loved being able to spend time with her and ten year old sister Alice talking about all the environmental opportunities I have had since I was their age.

Spending the day with the "Find a Whio" winner.

Spending the day with the “Find a Whio” winner

It was also great to hear about her environmental involvement so far and what her school has been doing as an eco-school.

Part of Olive’s prize was to head out on the river with Fern the whio dog and several DOC rangers to ‘find’ four whio. We found two parents with two fledgling ducks and carried out the capture, checks and watched in on the micro chipping before Olive and her family released them back onto the river.

Olive kissed her little fledgling on the head before watching it swim back up the river with its family, thrilled it was ‘in the lead’.

This was an experience which will not only stay with Olive and her family for a long time to come but also with me.

We went river rafting, fishing at the Turangi National Trout Centre, fed the whio ducklings in the crèche and Olive, Alice and Dad Mike had a 45 minute helicopter flight around the Tongariro Forest and National Park. We ate very well thanks to Robyn’s buffet style lunches and Olive’s requests of chocolate cake to be included in this.

Working with the Department of Conservation has been the highlight of my year and it has definitely opened new doors full of future possibilities for me. I’d like to say a huge thank you to the Taupo DOC office and to Natasha Hayward, Robyn Orchard and Tania Wells for giving me this amazing opportunity and to Amelia Willis for letting me have many of these wicked experiences out in the field.

Before heading to Wellington and Victoria University to study my first year of a Bachelor of Science majoring in Ecology and Biodiversity next month I am off to the NZAEE Conference where I am  speaking as part of a Collaborative Community Conservation Education Model youth presentation.

Speaking at the Kids Greening Taupo launch about the logo which I had designed.

Speaking at the Kids Greening Taupo launch about the logo which I had designed

The presentation is with two other students from Kids Restore the Kepler and Project Janzoon. I will present on Kids Greening Taupō and the opportunities this programme has offered me, including my work as a summer partnership ranger. We are hoping to see many programmes introduced throughout New Zealand with student leadership and involvement in environmental education to work towards fixing some of our local wicked problems.

I am excited to see what this brings and look forward to the new possibilities waiting for me in Wellington.