Archives For Powelliphanta

Anthony Behrens shares his experience hunting down and photographing Powelliphanta marchanti snails in the Northern Ruahines.

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To get people talking about unique native species, we took a camera out around Wellington and asked people to say a few twisty names for us.

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DOC Central Plateau and Project Tongariro staff went bush recently for a snail-counting mission in the Waipakihi Valley.

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New Zealand does have its oddities, its strange beasts and weird plants. By this I don’t mean kiwi or tuatara, but lesser known creatures, the ones which have no hope of gracing a coin or a stamp.

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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 Mark Anderson, Partnerships Ranger based in the Western Bay of Plenty District.

Mark Anderson running on the Wellington waterfront.

I hate a sprint finish

At work

Some things I do in my job include… I am one of the lucky people who are involved in Resource Management Act planning, statutory land management and concessions! At the moment I am involved in negotiating the surrender of an access arrangement (long story that one!), the management of mangroves in Tauranga harbour and setting up management agreements for various blocks of graze-able public conservation land, to name but a few.

This helps achieve DOC’s vision by… ensuring resources are used and managed sustainably and making sure those out there trying to make a fast buck to the detriment of the environment do not get away with it!

The best bit about my job is… the variety of the work that comes my way, one day I’m monitoring a sledging operation and enjoying the thrills of tumbling down white water and the next exercising the little grey cells as they assess the environmental impacts of a resource consent application.

The funniest/strangest/loveliest/scariest/awesome-est (choose one) DOC moment I’ve had so far is… in terms of white knuckle stuff it has to be monitoring a sledging operation on the Kaituna River, the operator has a concession as the walk into the jump in point is over a scenic reserve. As I was going undercover I could not reveal my true identity until the end which meant I had to sign up for the whole trip, for some reason no one else was keen to tackle the rapids so it fell to me to save the day! I also had a great time chasing the powelliphanta snails in the middle of Te Urewera National Park.  These snails are serious carnivores so you have to watch out, watch a snail attack on YouTube.

Mark Anderson in the white water.

A tough day at the office

The DOC (or previous DOC) employee that inspires or enthuses me most is… having not been with the Department all that long this is a tough question as pretty much everyone I have worked with is passionate about what they do and can enthuse others to fight the good fight. If pushed though I would have to say Aniwaniwa Tawa, she gave me some great advice when it came to delivering educational classes to some of the schools around Te Urewera National Park. After watching her in action she certainly inspired the kids she was teaching and inspired me to try and deliver fun and informative lessons.

On a personal note…

The song that always cheers me up is… a great little number by the legendary Saw Doctors called “Uesta Love her Once“ as it has some great lyrics and is one of the more up beat songs about moving on in love and life!

Mark Anderson on the top of the Tararua Ranges after fresh snow.

Best ever tramp in the Tararuas Jumbo Hut to Holdsworth after fresh snow

My stomping ground is… being a keen cyclist I can usually be found climbing one of the many roads that rise from Tauranga Harbour. The views you get from the tops are always great and it is always a good excuse to stop and suck in some oxygen before heading back down.

My best ever holiday was… after my tour of Iraq in 2003 I went island hopping around the Greek Islands for a wee while. The copious amounts of sun, sea, sand, fresh fish and ouzo made for a great holiday and a perfect way to refresh the body and soul.

My greatest sporting moment was when… there have of course been many but top of the list was taking line honours in a 51km fell race called the Long Tour of Bradwell. A striking run through the heart of the lower peak district in the UK, plenty of stunning views to distract you from those aching legs!

Before working at DOC I… enjoyed avoiding the responsibility of getting a career! I spent a fair bit of time landscape gardening and can also add Wellington cycle courier to my achievements, (national office staff apologies if I may have nearly run you over at some point in 2009!) and I also had a stint as a pool lifeguard.

Mark Anderson travelling in South West China.

Travelling in South West China, spectacular scenery but very challenging

Deep and meaningful…

My favourite quote is… “I shall finish the game” Bit of a cheesy one liner form Young Guns II but I like it because I always strive to finish what I start and never like to quit.

The best piece of advice I’ve ever been given is… “It is not the will to win that is important but the will to prepare to win” This little nugget came from my athletics coach when I was younger. Basically it is no good having the dream if you are not prepared to put the hard yards into ensure that dream can be realised.  I think it can be applied to any aspect of life, not necessarily just sport.

In work and life I am motivated by… keeping middle age spread at bay! This is why I volunteer to help out the services rangers as much as possible.

My conservation advice to New Zealanders is… get involved in local conservation projects, you will meet some great people and reap the rewards of seeing the fruits of your labour in your own area (not to mention enjoying the odd sausage sizzle or two!)

Question of the week…

What is the weirdest thing you have ever eaten? Back packing around Laos I found myself in a bar and ravenously hungry, I could not see a menu anywhere but one guy was tucking into a plateful of what looked like dark noodles so I just pointed at that and rubbed my belly to indicate the same for me. When the plate arrived, it was an assortment of insects and bugs, all deep fried and very crispy and to be fair also rather tasty!

Our photo of the week is this beautiful Powelliphanta snail, a large, air-breathing, carnivorous land snail endemic to New Zealand.

Powelliphanta snail. Photo: John Mason.

Their shells come in an array of colours and patterns, ranging from hues of red and brown to yellow and black. Their favourite prey is earthworms, but they are also known to eat slugs. Powelliphanta snails are an integral part of New Zealand’s unique fauna, and were as important in evolutionary terms as kiwikākāpō or moa.

Predation and habitat loss are the major threats to this species, although their outlook is improving with DOC undertaking work to protect these snails on the West Coast through long-term monitoring, translocation and captive breeding.

This photo that was taken by DOC’s John Mason.

Every Friday Jobs at DOC takes you behind the scenes and into the jobs, the challenges, the highlights, and the personalities of the people who work at the Department of Conservation.

Today, to celebrate our amazing conservation volunteers, we shine the limelight on volunteer David Roscoe…

Name: David Roscoe

Position: Volunteer, imaging tiny objects in sharp focus. Three half-days a week, usually in the level two laboratory at DOC’s National Office.

Dave in DOC’s old lab at Victoria University

What kind of things do you do in your DOC volunteer role?

Photographing small objects in sharp focus, by merging numerous images taken at different foci using very cold light (otherwise the shell melts or is vaporized).

Producing snail posters and snail identification CDs. Snail surveys and identifying snails for DOC staff. Producing a toolbox for snail inventory and monitoring.

Left: Kokopapa unispathulata from Kaikoura. Middle top: Allodiscus from Wainuiomata. Middle bottom: Aeschrodomus stipulata from Kaka Point. Right: Liarea ornata from Matakana

What is the best part of your work?

Working with DOC staff in a pleasant working environment and receiving leaf mould containing snails from unusual locations.

What is the hardest part about your work?

Separating pictures of hairy snails and beetles from their background, pixel by pixel.

Dave looking at a tiny (pin prick-sized) still un-named snail species under a microscope. This snail was found on Great Mercury Island

What led you to your role in DOC?

Meeting inspiring people, then opportunity to pursue a long-held interest in landsnails (since 1964).

What was your highlight from the month just gone?

Very positive feedback about a poster and a quantitative snail survey I had done for, and on, Hen Island.

The rule of three…

Three loves

  1. My supportive wife Jenni.
  2. Advertising our huge diversity of small native land snails. So far over 460 species have been named with an estimated total of 1200–2000. Most are small – under 3 mm – and easily overlooked. In relation to area we have one of the most diverse land snail faunas in the world – compare this with Great Britain (of similar area) with 220 species. Also, at some localities over 60 species have been found living together, twice the highest diversity recorded anywhere else.
  3. Playing classical piano music, currently mostly Russian.

Three pet peeves

  1. Doing little about overpopulation.
  2. Tall poppy syndrome.
  3. Reflex green-bashing.

Three foods

  1. Homemade bread.
  2. Wellington’s sophisticated food variety.
  3. Jenni’s cooking.

Three favourite places in New Zealand

  1. Hen Island at dawn (dawn chorus).
  2. A grassy hillside patch surrounded by bush in the Wakarara Range near Hastings.
  3. The stunning beauty of much of the Wainuiomata Waterworks Reserve!


  1. Movie: The Warriors (Ancient Greek saga, set in today’s New York gangs).
  2. Album: Complete Piano Works of Federico Mompou.
  3. Book: Fredric Brown, Nightmares and Geezenstacks (SF mostly)

Dave in the lab checking out a new species of snail

Deep and meaningful:

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

Forget pharmacy (from which I am now retired), go to university – the student talent is awesome and you are much less likely to get armed holdups.

And, laugh more.

Who or what inspires you and why?

My piano teacher, she just scored a QSM. She is patient with my foolishness. Also, most of the DOC staff, hardworking and passionate about their work.

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


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

Working as a DOC volunteer.

What sustainability tip would you like to pass on?

Many sustainability problems relate to population levels. Individuals cannot solve overpopulation on their own. We could encourage politicians to include population optimisation in their manifestos.

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

  • At home, trenching or composting garden and food rubbish.
  • At work, always turning off unneeded lights and somehow being able to switch off the exhaust fan when absent.

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

A kākāpō, being indulged and well looked after in a safe habitat.

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

We live in the best living space on Earth bar none. Please don’t ruin it.