Our photo of the week is this beautiful Powelliphanta snail, a large, air-breathing, carnivorous land snail endemic to New Zealand.
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 kiwi, kākāpō 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 snailson the West Coast through long-term monitoring, translocation and captive breeding.
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…
My supportive wife Jenni.
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.
Playing classical piano music, currently mostly Russian.
Three pet peeves
Doing little about overpopulation.
Tall poppy syndrome.
Wellington’s sophisticated food variety.
Three favourite places in New Zealand
Hen Island at dawn (dawn chorus).
A grassy hillside patch surrounded by bush in the Wakarara Range near Hastings.
The stunning beauty of much of the Wainuiomata Waterworks Reserve!
Movie: The Warriors (Ancient Greek saga, set in today’s New York gangs).
Album: Complete Piano Works of Federico Mompou.
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.