Archives For Dactylanthus

Come behind the scenes and into the jobs, the challenges, the highlights, and the personalities of the people who work at the Department of Conservation (DOC).

Today we profile Avi Holzapfel,Terrestrial Ecosystems Manager in Hamilton.

At work

Avi Holzapfel in the sun on Rangatira Island, Chatham Islands.

Roughing it in the Chatham Islands in autumn

Some things I do in my job include:

Managing a team of amazing technical and science advisors. When I say managing, I really mean supporting (but ‘supporter’ does not sound good as a job title). Until entering the lofty heights of lower management I focused on species recovery planning as a leader of the Kiwi Recovery Group for 6 years, leading native frog and dactylanthus recovery groups, helping to develop the new Natural Heritage Specialist Group framework and being a Conservancy Advisory Scientist.

This helps achieve DOC’s vision by:

Helping staff to do their best, and what is best for DOC.

The best bit about my job is:

Being allowed to work with keen, skilled, dedicated (and often very funny) people who share a sense of values and direction. To be part of the development of ‘things’ (strategies, processes, tools, communications) that make sense and are useful. To answer lots of emails (OK, that one is only half-true). To have the occasional trip outside to wonderful places and projects and actually being able to tell myself that I have a good reason to be there! To learn from the best teachers ever, which is everyone and everything.

A large brown frog up close in Panama.

A seriously large frog in Panama

The awesome-est DOC moment I’ve had so far is:

A few come to mind—abseiling with Dave King down a bank at Te Araroa during a dactylanthus search, using supplejack. Not the best idea, especially if it would have turned out that we were still slightly in the wrong place… (that was, of course, before I joined DOC and understood health and safety matters). Nest-minding on Codfish during the 2009 bumper breeding season, reading Lord of the Rings waiting for the female kākāpō to come back to her nest on night watches and hearing Herb Christophers sing the ‘Little Kākāpō’ song he wrote during those long hours—the night sure does strange things to people out there. Counting black robins with Dave Houston on Rangatira Island—often they were so close that I had to move away from them to read their bands. And (seriously) developing a good idea or strategy with staff—thoughts flying, heads hurting, passions glowing, and then all of a sudden we all get it—priceless (until someone shows us where we missed a bit).

The DOC (or previous DOC) employee that inspires or enthuses me most is… there are too many in DOC to do justice, therefore I’ll go outside the rule here (me, a German, can you believe it?) and say Kevin Hackwell, Advocacy Manager at Forest and Bird and a member of the Kiwi Recovery Group. He combines the skills of a terrier (not letting go) and a falcon (seeing the big picture) with a genuine good nature and an ability to target the issue, not the person. A real bridge-builder and the kind of constructive-critical friend everyone needs.

A rainbow over the Tapu Valley, Coromandel.

The view from our hut over the Tapu Valley towards Maumaupaki, Coromandel

On a personal note…

Most people don’t know that:

I have just enrolled to run my first (only?) half-marathon during the Auckland marathon in November. I’ll do it as a charity runner for Kiwis for kiwi, raising funds for kiwi recovery while proving to me and the world (well, at least previous school mates who teased me) that those are legs, not sticks! So I will shamelessly use this opportunity to advertise my fundraising page and ask for your donation, your support by forwarding it to your friends (all of them!), and to consider running yourself. There a still a couple of places left. If you are still not motivated let me know and I will give you the emotional story of my journey from desk-bound weakling to Bruce Willis-like hero in just 3 months! Seriously, though, I’ll appreciate any support for a great cause (kiwi, not my legs).

In my spare time:

I go fishing (great supplement to an otherwise vegetarian diet), read until my head hurts, cook, and play saxophone in a big band—best thing ever is when people start dancing! And spending time at a wonderful piece of land in the Coromandel that we became the custodians of some years ago. As close to paradise (with weeds) as I have come yet.

If I could be any New Zealand native species I’d be:

kauri tree—roots deep in the soil, tall, quiet, ancient.

Photo of the Holzpfel family on the couch.

The traditional Christmas photo of our family

My secret indulgence is:

Not so secret: movies! Any and all (except horror), high and low-brow, and for all ages. I used to have a specific part in my brain able to store lots of useless detail of most movies I have ever seen, and recall them at will. These days I might still store them, but the recalling bit is getting harder. My daughter (now 21) is stepping up as a real challenger for movie trivia. Ah well, a master is happy when the pupil is exceeding him…

Before working at DOC I:

Trained as a chef (very briefly), worked as a tiler (still love doing that), rolled vegetarian spring rolls in a commercial kitchen in Berlin and spent lots of time at uni (time well spent! Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!)

Deep and meaningful…

Dactylanthus taylorii.

A male inflorescence of Dactylanthus taylorii

My favourite quote is:

Red sky at night: she’ll be alright. Red sky in the morning: she’ll be alright (fisherman’s weather check)

The best piece of advice I’ve ever been given is:

During my first travel to New Zealand someone talked about the New Zealand Wildlife Service and suggested I study in biology and then come here. Can’t believe this is what actually happened!

In work and life I am motivated by:

Teachers—the official ones, the unofficial ones and in particular those who have no idea they just taught me!

My conservation advice to New Zealanders is:

Take a holiday in Europe, where the damage to the environment was pretty much done hundreds of years ago. Then come back to New Zealand and look at how much we still have to lose, and still can protect!

The Terrestrial Ecosystem team at Mt. Tarawera.

The wonderful Terrestrial Ecosystem team at Mt. Tarawera

Question of the week…

My edible house would be made of:

Fried tofu. A seriously misunderstood food.

Come behind the scenes and into the jobs, the challenges, the highlights, and the personalities of the people who work at the Department of Conservation (DOC).

Today we profile Taranaki based biodiversity ranger, Kelly Eaton

Kelly with her brother Fraser graduating as a Navy Officer.

My dad, brother (graduating as a Navy officer) and me!

At work…

What kind of things do you do in your role?

Well I do a range of field work and office tasks. I am mainly in the field doing things such as maintaining and checking the stoat trap network on Mt Taranaki; whio and Dactylanthus taylorii surveys; coastal herb field weeding to improve the habitat for rare plant species and the endangered Notoreas ‘Taranaki’ moth; along with a range of other threatened flora and fauna work—while also attempting to get volunteers involved to help me get these jobs done.

What is the best part about your job?

Seeing positive results and finding what I’m looking for, such as a whio and Dactylanthus.

A whio sitting on a rock.

One of our whio, looking handsome

What is the hardest part about your job? 

The struggle to get everything done; I want to do everything I can but there just isn’t enough time to do it all.

What led you to your role in DOC? 

Ever since I could carry a pack my father has been dragging me into the bush, taking my brother and I hunting in various spots throughout New Zealand. So somehow, although I was rather against going bush as a kid, I managed to grow up with a passion for our native wildlife.

Originally my goal was to become a zookeeper, which inspired me to obtain a degree in Zoology and a Certificate in Captive Wild Animals. After, I started to look for opportunities to gain that valuable experience. Along the way I met the right people who gave me that essential foot in the door. I gained a temporary job with the Historic Team in our National Office, which was followed by a year carrying out forest surveys with various organisations from Northland to Stewart Island, which finally lead me to my present dream job in Taranaki. Yay!

What was your highlight from the month just gone?

Getting into the rivers and tracking down whio to add to this season’s tally, and finding my first ducklings (totally cute!).

Kelly at Living Legends planting day.

2011 Living Legends planting day

The rule of three…

Three loves:

  1. Sleep—it’s amazing.
  2. Food; those who know me will know that it is a rare moment to not find me snacking on something.
  3. Massages, especially after a massive field day.

Three pet peeves:

  1. Waiting in line. If there is a big line I am just going to go somewhere else, life is too short.
  2. Disorder.
  3. Trying to find something trendy to wear when I don’t have to wear a uniform.

Three foods:

  1. Pizza.
  2. Chocolate.
  3. Meat and three veg.

Three favourite places in New Zealand:

  1. Tongariro National Park.
  2. Mt Taranaki is fairly up there.
  3. Anywhere with sunshine, golden sands and a bottle of wine.

Favourite movie, album, book:

Movies: Kill Bill 1 and 2, and anything Peter Jackson does.

Album:   Nothing comes to mind, I like a range of things. For Today by Headband may be my favourite song. Just don’t give me any of that angry screaming rubbish.

Book: Edmonds Cookery Book… well it’s the one I use the most.

Kelly feeding a giraffe at Wellington Zoo.

Feeding a magnificent giraffe at Wellington Zoo

Deep and meaningful…

What piece of advice would you tell your 18 year old self?

‘Go out there and volunteer, gain experience and make connections. It will make obtaining the job you want a bit easier’. I pass this onto many of the potential future rangers I meet.

Who or what inspires you and why?

Steve Irwin was fairly cool—that bubbly positive personality, out there, doing what he could with a passion. He taught so many people about conservation values. And Captain Planet… he’s a hero…. Are you singing the theme song in your head now?

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Very briefly I thought I would be an artist, but after a few school trips to the zoo, becoming a zookeeper became my focus. I knew I wanted to work with animals.

And now, if you weren’t working at DOC, what would you want to be?

A house wife/gardener/popping out a few kiddies or saving endangered wildlife in Africa… oh the options!

What sustainability tip would you like to pass on?

Compost your biodegradable kitchen waste; it’s amazing how well the garden will grow with a bit of homemade compost.

Kelly Eaton feeding penguins rescued after the Rena oil spill.

A team of us got to help out with the Rena disaster. I was crop feeding oiled birds for a week, exhausting but rewarding

Which green behaviour would you like to adopt this year—at home? At work?

At home: car pool and ride my bike more. At work: hassle people about the ‘Check Clean Dry’ message more.

If you could be any New Zealand native species for a day, what would you be and why?

I think a New Zealand fur seal would be quite cool, flying through the water and discovering a whole new world.

What piece of advice or message would you want to give to New Zealanders when it comes to conservation?

Bored? Looking for something new to do? Interested in conservation? Your local DOC office could probably use your assistance with a project or two. Give them a call and let’s get some work done!

Kelly after climbing to the top of the Mountain.

I had to do it at least once, I made it to the top and my certificate proves it

Plants that stink, plants that like their food wriggling, plants that live in bird shit and a flower that grows underground – we have it all here in Aotearoa!

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