The team enjoying a well earned snack break

Introduction

Having made the brave step to quit her job after 11 years as a physiotherapist, Sarah Wood was keen to contribute to conservation. DOC ranger Danielle Hart signed her up as a volunteer and the next week Sarah was part of a 13-person team, on her way to Great Mercury Island!

Date:  01 December 2016

"What a fantastic opportunity! Not only was I going to visit an island (which not many people get to go to) but I also had the chance to learn new skills and gain some valuable experience which would all contribute to my pursuit of working in the field of conservation."

Ahuahu-Great Mercury Island is privately owned and, in partnership with DOC, was recently declared pest free. The other six Mercury Islands of Eastern Coromandel are incredibly sensitive nature reserves and wildlife sanctuaries.

They have tens of thousands of seabirds and are home to many special creatures like the Mercury Islands' tusked wētā, which has narrowly avoided extinction due to these pest free sanctuaries.

Great Mercury Island.

Team at Great Mercury Island.

The mission was 'search-and-destroy' that notorious member of the 'Dirty dozen', the invasive moth plant weed. A team of DOC staff had been out several months earlier searching the area, and this trip was to monitor and eradicate any more seedlings discovered.

"Grid searching in a team of 10 using GPS to track our paths and plot any weeds were new skills for me – as a volunteer I felt a little bit of pressure to get it right and find some moth plants! It was a little like searching for a needle in a haystack – lots of bush bashing through dense bush, banks to climb, ridges to scurry around, and gullies to cross – all whilst trying to stay in the correct line and spot the moth pant! It was good physical work and I think we all truly relished the breaks and plenty of food bought along.

Stick insect.

Volunteer team.

"What was really pleasing is that the team reported less moth plant and we also covered new territory. This was only achieved due to having additional man power on board in the form of us volunteers. It felt really good to be able to have contributed to this outcome and I sensed the team really valued having us volunteers to assist with the task."

"But it wasn't all work and no play – there was plenty of time to explore, swim, watch dolphins frolic and just enjoy the beauty of the island.

"For me, volunteering is not only a great way to gain new skills but also allows me the chance to visit and enjoy unique places, connect with nature and contribute to conservation. I feel enriched for having had this opportunity and encourage everyone to volunteer in whatever capacity they can."

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