My name’s Keith Springer, and I’m joining the Million Dollar Mouse programme as an Operational Advisor and once on Antipodes Island during winter, as Safety Officer.
I’ve just moved back to New Zealand after living in Hobart, Tasmania for nearly 10 years, working for Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service. That whole time was working as the project manager for the Macquarie Island Pest Eradication Project, a project that pretty much consumed my life from October 2006! It was a really satisfying project to be a part of though – partly because it was so rewarding to see the island respond after removal of rabbits, rats and mice, and start to recover strongly; and partly because we had such a great team of people involved in the project over the years.
I’d spent a couple of years on Macquarie Island prior to managing the pest eradication project, as a ranger in 2005-6 and leading the cat eradication team in 2000, so I had got to know the island really well and appreciated it’s wild and stark beauty. I’d also seen the terrific damage done to the island’s vegetation and wildlife after rodents and rabbits had munched through it.
In between those stints on Macquarie I worked for Antarctica New Zealand. Initially this was for 14 months at Scott Base as Field Support Officer and then Operations Coordinator, and then as the Programme Support Coordinator/Scott Base Operations Manager. In that role I spent the winters in Christchurch doing all the planning for the following field season on the ice, and then the summers at Scott Base seeing if all the planning bore any resemblance to reality. It was this level of planning detail, plus my familiarity with Macquarie Island, that stood me in good stead for managing the Macquarie eradication project.
As a result of the Macquarie Island work, I was invited to join the team that was undertaking a rat eradication project on South Georgia, and so I spent several months in 2013 and again in 2015 on South Georgia, overseeing operations at the bait loading sites. A more truly dramatic landscape it would be hard to find, and it was a real privilege to spend some time there.
Prior to my first stint on Macquarie, I spent 10 years working for DOC at Glenorchy, mostly with management of recreational facilities – the huts and tracks on the Routeburn, Caples-Greenstone and Rees-Dart Tracks. I also worked for DOC in various other locations, including Golden Bay and Fiordland. I’d been with the Environmental Forestry Branch of the NZ Forest Service before DOC was formed in 1987, having trained as a Forest Ranger.
I’ve been fortunate enough to visit the Antipodes a couple of times, although not to land. Working on expedition tour ships, we’ve called in at the Antipodes and cruised the coastline in zodiacs, keeping our eyes peeled for pipits and parakeets.
I’m looking forward to working with the team on the baiting this winter. My role as Safety Officer/Operations Advisor includes ensuring that Stephen Horn is supplied with regular cups of coffee, and to reassure him that when things go wrong this is entirely expected; and that every project of this nature has challenges to face, it’s just that we don’t know which ones we will get dealt when shuffling the deck of potential woes! I’ll also be hovering around the loading site trying to keep out of the way and ensure that loading operations are running smoothly and safely. And looking for any hidden stashes of chocolate that might have been overlooked…