Archives For Longfin Eel

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 Stella McQueen, Freshwater Ranger/”native fish geek” in DOC’s Taranaki/Whanganui Area Offices.

At work

Stella McQueen standing in a forest.


Some things I do in my job include… Fishing! Mostly spotlighting or electrofishing, surveying streams in order to update records, find out what is there and figure out how best to look after the special places that we find.

The best bit about my job is… Fishing! The astonishment and excitement each time my spotlight falls on a great big kōkopu or longfin eel. Sharing the knowledge and helping to look after these incredible animals.

The DOC (or previous DOC) employee that inspires or enthuses me most is…
Rosemary Miller. She was a friend of the family when I was an odd teenager obsessed with medieval history. She was a huge inspiration and mentor. I still aspire to be like her when I grow up…

The scariest DOC moment I’ve had so far is… Rolling a brand new ute down a 100 metre cliff into a stream and being rescued by a helicopter, three weeks into a three month contract. I remain utterly astonished that we survived.

The rolled ute at the bottom of a cliff.

Our ute at the bottom of the 100 metre cliff

On a personal note…

The song that always cheers me up is… The old theme tune from Thomas the Tank Engine!

If I could trade places with any other person for a week – famous or not famous, living or dead, real or fictional – it would be… A zombie apocalypse survivor, so long as dying during the week wasn’t permanent. Technically, I am not a fan of horror movies, but ever since I rolled the ute I have had zombie dreams and they are so much fun!

My best ever holiday was… Last year, spending eleven months living in my little campervan. I travelled the length of the country meeting fish geeks, looking for different species and writing a field guide to freshwater fish, which will be published this November. I have loved the mobile life so much that my van is ‘home’ for the foreseeable future.

Campervan parked at Molesworth Station.

My home, parked at the top of the highest alpine road in the country (1,347 m), on Molesworth Station

My secret indulgence is… Collecting clever and/or funny internet memes, webcomics and captioned images. Embarrassingly, I have over 4,000 in 52 folders, and I look at them when I need a chuckle.

If I wasn’t working at DOC, I’d like to… Be writing more books and exploring more of this amazing country, and finding more work with DOC!

Deep and meaningful…

My favourite quote is… Well, there are lots, but my current favourite is “Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.” The next fishy book I want to write will be a very long and extremely challenging project, which is scary, but would be so good for me to do.

Stella feeding a longfin eel at night.

Feeding pieces of fresh roadkill to longfin eels, after we finished our work for the night. They had a good go at my fingers too

The best piece of advice I’ve ever been given is… “Don’t believe a word I say.” This piece of wisdom was pressed on my first-year Classical Studies class, by our amazing lecturer Norman Austin. He wanted us to check all ‘facts’ and make up our own minds, even if the information came from trusted experts.

In work and life I am motivated by… Obsessions. Life without interests and dreams and one’s weird personal geekiness would be boring. There is always something that I am utterly fascinating by and avidly researching.

My conservation advice to New Zealanders is… That it is not a choice between having a healthy economy and a healthy environment. We either have both, or we have nothing.

A large giant kokopu.

Our best fish of the season – a 32cm severely-battle-scarred giant kōkopu


Question of the week…

What is your biggest pet peeve? People who use text-speak out loud.

Stella holding a Tarndale bully.

Me with a Tarndale bully – the most geographically restricted freshwater fish species in New Zealand