Archives For research

Last week a team of researchers have been searching the waters off Northland to try and learn more about our manta rays. 

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For International Day of Women and Girls in Science, we caught up with one of our awesome female scientists – Dr Monique Ladds

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Marine Ranger Tom MacTavish takes us through the fifth and final installment in our blog series from the marine reserve monitoring project at Banks Peninsula using baited underwater video. The process of publishing this work on social media has encouraged conversation on some interesting ideas.

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Tom Brough takes us through the third installment in our blog series from the marine reserve monitoring project at Banks Peninsula. With 75 hours of underwater footage to analyse our marine rangers have their work cut out for them counting a menagerie of fish life caught on underwater camera.

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A joint 10-year Department of Conservation (DOC) and NIWA project to find out more about the great white sharks that inhabit New Zealand waters is coming to an end.

Great white shark with acoustic tag. Photo: Clinton Duffy / DOC.

Great white shark with acoustic tag

DOC’s Clinton Duffy, is one of several scientists who have spent the past decade tagging great whites—a protected species—and following their movements.

Clinton has a database of more than 100 sharks identified from their colour pattern and the shape of the dorsal fin.

Some familiar faces are seen each year at tagging time, because many sharks return annually to the same place.

White shark with acoustic tag. Photo: Clinton Duffy / DOC

Great white shark with acoustic tag

Because so few of us are lucky enough to meet a great white in flesh and fin, we thought we’d take this opportunity to introduce you to a handful of the great whites that frequent New Zealand waters:

Scarface is a bit of a character—inquisitive and a little aggressive:

Caro is one of the biggest female sharks we are tagging (3.7 metres) and certainly not shy:

Houdini, really lives up to his name. He evaded tagging for some time but eventually we put a popup tag on him:

Watch more videos (meet Pip and Ella!) and read more information about the great white shark research on NIWA’s website.

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 Judit Farquhar-Nadasi, Knowledge and Information Advisor in National Office.

At work

Judit relaxing outdoors.

Relaxing outdoors

Some things I do in my job include:

Looking after the library: updating subscriptions, buying books, finding articles, tidying and updating the collection, making our library useful for all DOC staff, providing images and giving advice related to images, visiting offices to help with library procedures, making the library services visible…

This helps achieve DOC’s vision by:

Supporting research for all DOC staff—helping to find and provide what people need to do a good job.

The best bit about my job is:

Helping people. I really take it seriously and I love to do it well and make a positive difference.

Judit in stocks while on holiday up north.

On holiday with my family, we had great fun in a corn maze up North

The loveliest DOC moment I’ve had so far is:

When I received a book from Italy, with a handwritten thank you letter from a researcher who I had helped. (It’s added to our collection).

The DOC employee that inspires me most:

My team, the Information Services Team. We have a healthy working relationship here—working hard, but with plenty of laughs and chocolate.

We support each other well and we are here to help all DOC staff.

Judit's team in National Office.

This is my great team, the Information Services champs in National Office

On a personal note…

Most people don’t know that:

Originally I wanted to become a psychologist, but I became a high school teacher in Hungary, Budapest (one of the most beautiful cities in the world) instead.

Also, I got a kiss from Leonid Brezsnyev when he came to visit my primary school in Budapest.

And many more things I could tell you over a coffee or two.

If I could trade places with any other person for a week it would be:

Mary Poppins. I would love to travel by umbrella.

My best ever holiday was:

It’s really difficult to choose as I have travelled a lot—all around the world.

It was not really a holiday, but I lived in Russia for half a year as an exchange student when I was at university. It was fun, challenging and very memorable. I love Russia.

If I could be any New Zealand native species:

I’d be a black robin, so I could take a good photo of myself and could add it to DOC’s image library—we really need one! Any native birds actually, so their number would be raised by one!

Black robin on a branch.

Black robin

Before working at DOC:

I was working at Victoria University’s library after we came to live in New Zealand. I enjoyed the academic environment—working with so many different people—and I loved my team.

Deep and meaningful…

My favourite quote is:

From a poem written by Rudyard Kipling, If:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:.
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build’em up with worn-out tools;
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

Flowers in Judit's garden.

I love colours. It is not me with green fingers in the family, but I am a great support person.

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

“It is not a sprint, it is a marathon”. I still think it’s a sprint though…

In work and life I am motivated by:

My family.

My conservation advice to New Zealanders is:

“Keep calm and carry on”. What advice could I give to you? Coming from Europe, I think you New Zealanders do a much better job than other countries. I think New Zealand is a beautiful country. It is great that people are aware that we can develop our country and preserve its unique natural state as a place for generations to enjoy and treasure.

A New Zealand beach.

I love walking on the beach whenever I can

Question of the week…

What would you name an autobiographical book of your life?

“Seize the moment (each of them)”

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 Nic Gorman, Research Technician based in Hamilton.

At work

Some things I do in my job include… acting as a link between our field team scattered around the country, and the project leader sitting at the desk beside mine. So that mainly entails getting traps and other equipment to where they’re needed, collating and auditing the data coming in, and doing what I can to keep the people at both ends of the equation happy.

Unfortunately we went and hired a very capable group for our field team, so it’s not that often that I get dragged out of the office to help them out in person.

Nic holding a falcon at Wingspan in Rotorua.

In my ‘happy place’, meeting Atareta at the Wingspan Trust, Rotorua

This helps achieve DOC’s vision by… keeping the Department up to pace with the latest developments in pest control technology, figuring out if these things are of use to us and if so in what scenarios, and further extending the range of tools we have available to us in the battle against the pests.

The best bit about my job is… being involved when what could potentially be the next big step-up in ground-based predator control hits the ground. It is pretty exciting (and a thought that helps me get through the most stressful days). Also, getting to know the great bunch of people who have been out there doing the groundwork for us, both the current team and their various predecessors.

The loveliest DOC moment I’ve had so far is… any time spent sitting under a pair of kōkako singing at full blast is right up there.

One time that particularly sticks in my memory is a morning I had a volunteer in tow. A few minutes into the song peak he pulled out his phone, rang his disabled sister, and just quietly said, “listen to this”.

I’m glad to have been part of someone experiencing something that she probably would never be able to otherwise. Actually I’m choking up a bit just remembering that….

(This, by the way, is not an open invitation for anyone to ever ring me at that time of the morning, whatever it is that you’re listening to at the time!)

The DOC employee that inspires or enthuses me most is… this is the hard one, when just about everyone I’ve met through work has been inspirational in some way. But someone who personifies all the great things about the people who work for the Department is Pete Livingstone, over at Opotiki. He’s someone who has all the knowledge and field nous you’d expect of someone who’s spent a big chunk of their life in the forest, is always keen to upskill with the latest science-driven field techniques, just quietly gets things done whatever life and the environment throws in the way… and so damn humble that he’ll be hating me for singling him out like this!

Nic impersonating a pirate at the Benneydale Research Station.

Working at the Massey University Benneydale Research Station duties included nest-finding, 4WD testing, rat control and even pirate impersonation

On a personal note…

The song that always cheers me up is Buffalo by the Phoenix Foundation, the bounciness of the song more than makes up for the slight biological inaccuracy of the lyrics. Actually pretty much anything by those guys will do the trick.

My best ever holiday was probably my most recent one, an all-too-short trip to New Caledonia late last year, avoiding resorts and trying to get a bit more face-to-face with the place. I got to indulge in all my favourite things, good food, wildlife spotting, orienteering, and while I arrived with little or no expectations, by the time I left I was starting to plot my next visit.

My greatest sporting moment? There’s a handful of age-class national orienteering titles I could point to, but I’m actually prouder of the few years I somehow got myself fit enough to race against the big boys at the elite level (note that I don’t say ‘compete’ at the elite level) and gained a whole new appreciation of just how quick these guys are in the terrain.

If I could be any New Zealand native species I’d be a kākā. Anything that flies would be good, but I’ve always had the impression watching our parrots, that more so than any other birds they’re fully aware just how cool it is being airborne. They have fun with it! And I’m more of a forest guy than a mountain guy, so kākā it is.

Nic face to face with a kagu bird.

Face to face with the kagu, Parc Riviere Bleue, New Caledonia

Before working at DOC in this role, there were many years on the conservation biology contracting circuit working for DOC, regional councils, universities and the like, in mostly, but not always, field-based roles. Everything from operating traplines in the Mackenzie Country, hauling sugar water up Kapiti Island for the benefit of hihi, editing Regional Park resource documents, and most recently running the field operations of a Massey University research programme looking into the ecology of forest remnants in an otherwise modified landscape. It’s fascinating every Friday reading of the different pathways people have taken to DOC, and I feel a bit dull by comparison, but I guess I’m lucky to have almost always been doing what I wanted to do for as long as I can remember.

Deep and meaningful…

My favourite quote is “You cannot reason somebody out of a position they did not reason themselves into” – Mark Twain, I believe. It’s almost as if he anticipated the internet as a forum for ‘debate’.

The best piece of advice I’ve ever been given is that sometimes it’s a good idea to pay attention when people are handing out advice. Unfortunately I can’t attribute this to anyone in particular, I just have this vague sense that somebody has probably told me this at some point.

Nic robin tracking at the Massey University Benneydale Research Station.

Robin tracking at the Massey University Benneydale Research Station

In work and life I am motivated by the idea of making a difference.

My conservation advice to New Zealanders is to get out there in amongst nature, discover what we’ve got, and the chances are you’ll enjoy it enough that you’ll then want to look into how you can contribute to keeping it.

Ahuriri Valley.

Whenever I start feeling desk-bound and thinking about the things I miss about fieldwork, those delightful spring afternoons in the Ahuriri Valley are usually up near the top of the list

Question of the week…

If you had to be a comic character, which one would you be and why?

As long as there was always a supply of magic potion handy, then sign me up as one of the Gauls from Asterix. Just a shame that if we could make that happen, the powers-that-be would probably decide that the best fit for me would be Cacofonix, the bard.