Q+A: Ask our Biodiversity Ranger

Department of Conservation —  23/10/2018

Meet one of our Senior Biodiversity Rangers Ali! She’s worked with some of New Zealand’s most unique species including whio, kiwi and short tailed bats. We asked on Instagram if you had any questions for Ali about her work and we were overwhelmed with the amount of questions we received! Read on for her answers…  

Senior Biodiversity Ranger Ali Beath.

Is there anywhere the public can go to observe short tailed bats?

There are no places that I can think of sorry, short-tailed bats only come out after dark, and in deep forest so they’re tricky to find or see. However, our other bat species – long-tailed bats – are a bit more visible, they come out on dusk and fly around the edges of bush, rivers and above ponds. Geraldine and Hamilton are two urban places where long-tailed bats can be found.

Short tailed bats, are nocturnal and favour dense bush making them hard to spot. 📷: James Reardon

What is the most satisfying project you’ve worked on this year?

Probably short-tailed bat monitoring – I always love working with bats. They’re how I got into conservation work, so they’ll always be a favourite for me. Working with them is satisfying because they’re so rare and are just amazing creatures. So ugly, and surprisingly vicious, yet so lovely all at the same time!

What are the biggest challenges when it comes to monitoring wildlife?

Each species is different, and comes with its own challenges. With whio (blue duck), it would probably be the environment – cold rivers! But at the same time that’s also the most rewarding part, as rivers are such stunning places to work, and I love being in the water. With bats it would be how tricky they are to find and catch. It’s always challenging monitoring species and seeing the impacts that introduced predators are having. When you’re attached to a particular kiwi, and have monitored him for a decade, then you find him killed by a ferret, then that’s always super hard.

Cold rivers can be a deterrent to working outside! 📷: blueSkySunHigh (flickr)

What do you need to be in your job, qualifications, experience?

A tertiary degree is really helpful, but even more important is the experience required in terms of field skills. You need experience working with threatened species and/or pest control (weeds and predators). For personal qualities- getting on well with others is important, as is working as part of a team. In my specific job, budgeting and work planning skills are also very important. If you are wanting to get into working with us, then check out our careers page.

What is your favourite part of your job?

The adventures, the animals, and the people. We get to go to some really cool places (bush, mountains, rivers), and it is a huge privilege to work with threatened species. The people we get to work with are awesome too.

Why did you want to become a diversity ranger?

I’ve always loved animals, right since I was a little girl, I always knew I wanted to work with animals in some way. I wasn’t too sure how or where or what that job might look like, but I went to university and studied Zoology and Ecology, and ended up working with short-tailed bats, and it all followed on from there.

Kiwi are targeted by ferrets.📷: Neill Hutton

What projects are you currently working on?

Today I am dealing with ferrets killing our adult kiwi in a large tract of bush. So figuring out with our team where to best put ferret traps, and finding the resources to buy a lot more traps. Also doing planning work around some alpine skink surveys for this summer. During November we’ve got a busy month doing a lot of predator monitoring, threatened plant monitoring and whio (blue duck) surveys.

What’s the trickiest animal/bird you’ve worked with and why?

Can I say humans?! In all seriousness though, short-tailed bats are pretty tricky to monitor. They’re super cryptic, and trying to find all of their roost trees in a 10,000ha tract of forest takes a lot of work.

Do you think there are any places left in NZ that could hide an extinct animal or two?

Ha, I sure hope so – that would be amazing. However I think the chances of that happening now are pretty remote. I always hoped that moa would be rediscovered as it would be amazing to be in the bush and have one crashing up behind you! We might not be finding extinct species anymore, but are still discovering new species. For example, a new species of plant (a cress) has just been found in an alpine flush up the mountain here. There are only about 40 plants of this new species that we’ve found so far.

📷: Jimmy Jonson

How much of a standard work week do you work outdoors?

In my role now, no where near as much as I’d like! My role now involves a lot of planning/tech advice/budgets, which takes me away from being in the field as much as I used to be. As a field ranger, I would be working outdoors in the bush or on the river about 4 days out of 5. Now as a Senior Ranger, my field time varies greatly depending on the time of the year, sometimes there’s meetings and planning work all week, other times if we’re short-tailed bat monitoring I might be out in the field each day.

Do you think it’s possible to achieve predator free NZ without gene targeting techniques?

Yes. With new technological developments (yet to surface) the eradication of one mammalian predator by 2050 is a definite possibility. The current predator control tools we have and the way we are currently using them will not be enough to achieve a predator free New Zealand by 2050. However, lots of resources are going into developing new tools, as well as new ways of using existing tools.

Whio. 📷: S Bernert

Who did you vote for in bird of the year 2018?

Haha, this year I voted for the whio (blue duck). I’ve worked with whio for all of my career, and just adore them. However, I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that I’ve never actually voted for them, so I thought it was high time that I did! Last year I voted for ruru (morepork), as they’re such characters, and I do like my night creatures! Congratulations to kereru for winning this year- it’s great to see a different bird winning this prestigious competition each year – it gives different species a turn in the limelight!

How do I become a ranger. Any specific courses I need to study?

Have a look at our website – it gives lots of options on how to get into DOC, as well as some online courses. A tertiary qualification is definitely important. When I look at a CV, I’m looking for someone who has good experience in the role. So often this means having really good field skills. Volunteering is a perfect way to build up your field skills and meet other people and also potential employers.

The trainee ranger course is a good course, and we have some fantastic people come out of that!

One response to Q+A: Ask our Biodiversity Ranger


    I think I could be a big help to your stoat plan in the fiords as IV worked in this feild of stoats an set up stoat trap lines .. To protect kiwi in coromandle .. IV lived and worked in the bush my whole life … So I would love to be part of this in the fiords ..