More than meets the eye: Teresa McCauley

Department of Conservation —  02/07/2021

Today we’re launching a new series on the Conservation blog – More than meets the eye, where we share the untold stories of our staff, their mahi and their experiences at the Department of Conservation/Te Papa Atawhai.

Today we’re talking to Teresa McCauley, Community Ranger in Whakatāne…

Teresa McCauley

What is your story?

Ko Hikurangi te maunga
Ko Rangitāiki te awa
Ko Waiōhau te marae
Ko Tamaki Hikurangi te wehare tipuna
Ko Ngāti Haka Patuheuheu ngā hapū
Ko Tuhoe te Iwi
Ko Mataatua te waka
No Waiōhau ahau
Ko Teresa McCauley tōku ingoa.

My story is rather unique to my life that I lead today. I grew up on a lifestyle block with my whānau, and my five siblings. Growing up with two brothers influenced me a lot; I was quite a tomboy. By the time I was seven I was wrestling, riding horses and motorbikes. It was all fun and games to me. I had goats for calf club days, and one year I won the supreme champion award in the Rangitāiki Plains.

My education began at my rural primary school, then in year 10 I went away to Waikato Diocesan, an all girls school. I went on to further my studies at the University of Otago, studying zoology.

My decision to study zoology was on the basis that I liked animals. After completing my degree, I figured out that it was not what you know, it’s who you know. I was fortunate to be hired as a guide at Rainbow Springs. This is where I truly learnt about animals, particularly birds and reptiles.

After a few years at Rainbow Springs, I didn’t feel fulfilled in my work. I returned to my studies, undertaking a part-time vet nursing degree, while in my spare time I would volunteer in the wildlife department and kiwi hatchery.

Fast forward six months and I became a wildlife and presentations animal handler. My first role was bird training/shows and looking after the reptiles (tuatara, geckos and skinks).

My passion for birds and reptiles – native and introduced – grew. I advanced in bird training and learnt more about animal behaviour. I got a few more tattoos of animals on my body, and the rest is history.

In my final year of working at Rainbow Springs I became the lead guide. My job was to train the guides and look after the logistics of each day. I learnt a lot about myself and managing people and we all went on the journey together.

Now I work at DOC – I absolutely love my job as a Community Ranger. When I first looked at the role, I saw it as what I was doing at the time but for a government agency. To me it was also returning home.

Papaki Marae, Tongariro with Phillipa Cox and Tom Brown in February 2020

What does your average day in the office look like?

No day or week is the same. Some days I can be in the office for the entire day, while other days are spent outside.

Outside days look different each time, as I am actively involved within community group work, events and education. I often head out with volunteers to check traplines in Hauone and Mimiha to protect the shorebirds, hui with community partners to try and get a collaborative community education project off the ground in Whakatāne. I also undertake rat trap building workshops at Ohiwa night markets.

Community team wellbeing week walk to Arohaki Lagoon

Today I am heading to Whirinaki Te Pua a Tāne with some rangatahi from Voyce – Whakarongo Mai to go on a hikoi and talk about the ngahere. I am passionate about our communities, educating those within our community is a great step forward in protecting our native wildlife.

Hugging trees

What is an exciting project that you have undertaken?

I have been lucky enough to be a part of many exciting projects. Some of those are the CCEM Whakatāne, Education days in Whirinaki Te Pua a Tāne and Trapping workshops – Matatā, Waiohau marae, Te Teko School.

Teresa at the Eastern Bay AgFest with Conservation Minister Kiritapu Allan
Whio unbanding at Whirinaki Te Pua a Tāne

What is your purpose while working at Te Papa Atawhai?

They say do what you love and you will never work a day in your life. That is me! To get out and work with the community and being present in my work is a great gift. I love working and engaging with community groups, it is extremely rewarding to see the impacts of our work on our environment and with our people.

However, one of the most amazing things that I have done is catching whio in Whirinaki Te Pua a Tāne to remove their bands. Shifting from captive conservation to wild has been the coolest experience. I look forward to what the future holds for this year.

7 responses to More than meets the eye: Teresa McCauley

    Michelle Hippolite 07/07/2021 at 10:34 am

    Neat korero. Key take out for me was to follow your passion and seek out those opportunities that align with your values and ambitions. Ka rawe e hine.


    Wow Teresa, I loved reading your blog. What an amazing journey you have had so far…. and so much more to come yet..
    Kia Kaha Sue ❤


    Teresa Rennei Meka McCauley (Wahssy) Mum and Dad are so proud of you 💙💚💜❤️You are young and you’re dream has just begun 🐦🐈🐴🦌🐦Keep up the good work Bo!! 👍👌

    Aroha Greenhalgh 03/07/2021 at 9:19 pm

    Nice one Teresa, keep up the good mahi ♡ Great life example


    Great to read of your journey.


    Great story with such satisfying experiences. If yo can do what you love then you are very lucky. What a role model

    Kim Brandon 02/07/2021 at 8:16 pm

    Awesome experience s you shared, so cool seeing you do what you enjoy in beautiful NZ. Nice one👌