This summer has been one of our busiest seasons yet! We have kicked off our huge possum elimination work over on the Extended Wildside, and our Kaitōrete operation is going gangbusters. We have a passionate core group of staff doing an amazing job but sometimes a little extra help is needed to see us through.

Introducing Jake, who came on board as a summer worker with us in partnership with Te Taumutu Rūnanga. There’s a lot to love about Jake, he’s hardworking, humble, a quick learner and has a passion for the outdoors and his whānau. We decided to interview him at the end of his placement to delve into what makes him tick.

Jake in portrait

Photo: This is our man, Jake - an upstanding citizen!

Jake, you fitted in with the team like a well-made glove, maybe tell us a little bit about who you are:

I grew up in the Rakaia area in a place called Dorie, after which, we moved to Sheffield, so I’ve always been a part of the rural scene. I’m currently studying at the University of Otago towards an Ecology degree, with a minor in Māori studies. My whānau on my mum’s side whakapapa back to Taumutu and Ngāi Te Ruahikihiki, and my grandparents live in Leeston, so the idea of returning to these parts was quite attractive.

Dad took me hunting from a young age and I earned money doing possum trapping for skins in year 7 at school. Dad taught me about the importance of conservation, so I guess my love of the environment grew from there.

I’ve heard about what things used to be like, and the extinctions that have both happened already and the further species still on the brink. I know what damage these pests are doing. By removing these pests, we are bringing back biodiversity and reclaiming something we had almost once lost. There is a lot of work to be done, that’s for sure.

Jake setting up an SA2Jake out on Kaitōrete

Photos: Jake installing an SA2 (L), and out in the field on Kaitōrete (R).

What drew you to working with us for the summer?

Last year I worked with Predator Free Dunedin and the Halo project, working around Silverstream and Flagstaff doing bird counts and bat surveys, and found out about the PFBP project through social media. Working with Predator Free Dunedin was awesome. Doing that again with another group working in the predator free space, with family close by and having the opportunity to reconnect with my marae just seemed like it was made for me to be honest.

I’ve always had an interest in predator control, I got in touch with Te Taumutu who in turn put me onto Tim. The rest is history.

Jake clearing weeds at the marae

Photo: Jake attacking another pest, weeds, at Te Pā o Moki Marae.

What were your highlights/lowlights from working with the PFBP team this summer?

Biggest highlight was how willing John and Tim were to teach me the stuff! I felt like I was learning 24/7 just by being around them. Also, how open Sarah and Tim were with me using my time to be involved with the hapū– it really made a difference to be able to combine both aspects in my work. And I can’t complain about the variety of tasks!

Best moment ever was when I opened up a trap with a dead hedgehog in it, to be greeted by two very alive skinks looking up at me – almost smirking.

Lowlight? Has to be flymageddon* – was hoping they weren’t going to be like that all summer. (*Editor’s note: For those readers not familiar with flymageddon, this is the masses of native midges or “lake fly” that congregate around the edge of Te Waihora from spring through summer. They can get pretty dense in parts.)

Jake checking a BT250 trap

Photo: There are a number of traps around the Taumutu area, helping to prevent pests from entering Kaitōrete.

What’s your ideal job?

Similar to what I’ve been doing across both summers. All of this predator control work has been great. In the future, I’d like to also have a research component to  work and possibly managing projects myself. There is a big future in this stuff with the community's growing support seeing the benefits and the real potential of new technology; and that’s what’s got me into it.

Gecko from Banks Peninsula

Photo: Some of the best days are running into the things you're trying to save on Te Pātaka o Rākaihautū/Banks Peninsula.

What would you suggest for other students wanting to get into this field?

Reach out to people – there is work to be done in all fields and they want eager workers. Don’t be afraid to ask and that’s what got me into this so far.

I will definitely come back to visit more often; to knock on Tim’s door next summer and to maintain the connection I have gained with my hapū. It’s been awesome.

Jake - We were so privileged to have you as part of our team. We know you'll go far because someone that has that kind of passion will always find their way. Keep in touch and we look forward to seeing what you do next!