Meet this year’s DOC Blake Ambassadors

Department of Conservation —  21/01/2017

The next generation of Blake Ambassadors are already contributing to DOC’s work this summer.

This year the Sir Peter Blake Trust, in partnership with Antarctica NZ, the Antarctic Heritage Trust, NIWA, Tara Expeditions and DOC are offering 12 placements, five of these with the Department.

The Blake Ambassadors, aged 18-25 will be working alongside leading scientists, conservators and rangers, developing relationships and gaining field experience in their chosen area of study.

Shelly Campbell, CEO of the Sir Peter Blake Trust, says the programme is “designed to be a life changing experience. It provides unique hands-on experience in the field with an element of adventure”

Last year seven young people worked alongside our rangers to bring their unique skills and a lot of enthusiasm to a wide range of work; from surveying lizards on Maud Island, assisting with island maintenance on Kapiti, supporting a landscape scale restoration project in Hawke’s Bay through to stoat control in a whio project in Kahurangi.

This year’s line-up of DOC Blake Ambassadors includes:

Jemma Welch

Jemma Welch.Jemma has a Master of Science from the University of Auckland and has been studying and working with seabirds for four years.

Her masters focused on the breeding biology for grey-faced petrels.

She is going to be monitoring black petrels on Aotea/Great Barrier, including monitoring for breeding success, foraging behaviour and longevity.

Bokyong Mun

Bokyong Mun.Bokyong is a second year Law and Science student at the University of Otago

She is also heavily involved in volunteering as the Otago Regional President for the United Nations Youth New Zealand.

Amongst other work she was involved in the ‘Plastic Bottle Kayak Expedition’ in 2015.

Bokyong will join Jemma in the monitoring work for petrels.

Juliet O’Connell

Juliet O'Connell.Juliet has just completed a Master of Conservation Biology at Victoria University, exploring the processes of conservation, ecology, restoration and biodiversity alongside experimental design, collection and analysis of data.

Juliet is going to contribute to the 5000 hectare Rotoiti Nature Recovery Project at Nelson Lakes National Park.

Cummings Cottage.

Cummings Cottage

Extract from Juliet’s first blog update:

Excited for my adventure I boarded the early flight from Wellington to Nelson where I then caught a shuttle to St Arnaud, Nelson Lakes. This is where I will be spending the next month helping out with conservation work as part of the Rotoiti Nature Recovery Project (RNRP) – a ca. 5,000 ha ‘mainland island’ within the Nelson Lakes National Park at the northern end of the Southern Alps. Mainland islands are areas that are either isolated by predator exclusion fences, geographic features or intensive pest management (there are 5 around the country). The area is famous for its beautiful beech forests, predominantly red (Fuscospora fusca), silver (Lophozonia menziesii), and mountain (Fuscospora solandri var. cliffortioides) beech, which I will talk about in more detail in the weeks to come.

My first day consisted of inductions and settling into the DOC staff accommodation, Cummings Cottage. The cute wee cottage is located conveniently across the road from the DOC office, is a 5 minute walk from the most delicious pizza, head 5 minutes in the other direction and you are graced with the picturesque Lake Rotoiti, oh and might I mention that the views outside my bedroom window are to DIE FOR! My supervisor for the month will be Jen Waite who is a senior biodiversity ranger here. Read more

Sophie Ross

Sophie Ross.Sophie is entering her second year at the University of Otago studying a BA major in Politics and the first year Law Course.

She is interested in the interactions between politics, law and our environment. In particular, how these interactions can be used to value and protect native species and ecosystems.

She will assist with monitoring seabirds and kiwi populations on Motutapu Island.

Sam West

Sam West.Sam is studying towards a Master of Science (Ecology) at Otago and his thesis looks at climate change impact on spatial variation on snow cover in the Pisa Range and how this impacts on alpine vegetation.

Sam will join Sophie in the work on Motutapu Island.

Motutapu Island.

Motutapu Island

Extract from Sam’s first blog update:

An early start, quick stopover in Auckland and a short ferry ride later, Sophie and myself found ourselves on the wharf at Rangitoto Island. Surrounded by a decent pile of pest-free luggage, and what we hoped was enough food, we were met by Hazel Speed, the DOC biodiversity ranger for Motatapu and Rangitoto Islands and our guide/mother/boss for the next two and a half weeks.

After a quick stop at our accommodation, we were off on a whirlwind tour of our new island home and accompanied by a quick history lesson from Hazel. Rangitoto Island is New Zealand’s youngest landmass, having been spewed up from the ocean floor only 600 years ago. Although nearly every inch of the ground is covered in sun baked volcanic scoria, the island is cloaked in lush vegetation and is home to the largest Pohutukawa forest in the world. Read more

The DOC teams are looking forward to the valuable contributions from this year’s Blake Ambassadors.