Fiji's rainforest classroom

Participants from the three universities at Colo-i-Suva Forest Reserve. COMMUNITY
Participants from the three universities at Colo-i-Suva Forest Reserve.

Surrounded by tall green trees and being subject to regular rain showers in a Fiji rainforest is not the typical classroom experience for UniSA’s environmental and geospatial science students.

But nine students recently joined others from Flinders University and the University of the South Pacific for two weeks in Fiji studying the area’s biodiversity and gathering data through remote sensing.

Bachelor of Environmental Science student, Anthony Randell thoroughly enjoyed hiking through beautiful rainforests and experiencing spectacular mountaintop views.

“It has given me more field experience in a completely different environment – both culturally and ecologically – to South Australia, and with this comes new perspectives and views that could help me gain employment in Australia and overseas,” Anthony says.

Members of the Mount Batilamu vegetation survey team.Members of the Mount Batilamu vegetation survey team.

“My time spent on Mount Batilamu was one of those occasions that reaffirmed my chosen career path in helping to protect and restore natural environments.”

Fellow Environmental Science student, Michael Blackie’s experiences in Fiji have helped him realise his desire to be involved in sustainable management.

“My study in Fiji revolved around eco-tourism and trail interpretation, with a focus on the three pillars of sustainability,” Michael says.

“I noticed a lot of waste disposed of unsustainably, which made me think there could be a better plan in place to monitor and manage the excess waste.”

Emilia Adams, who is studying a Bachelor of Geospatial Science, learnt a great deal through her hands-on experience using remote sensing to gather data.

“Not only have I learnt a whole new set of skills in the field I’m most interested in, but I have gained a greater appreciation for the fieldwork component of the environmental sciences,” Emilia says.

“The first week was spent on campus at the University of the South Pacific in Suva and we conducted surveys in the lowland forest of Colo-i-Suva.

“The second week was spent in the Abaca ecotourism village where we assessed the birds and vegetation biodiversity in the highland forest of Koroyanitu National Heritage Park.”

Students set off from their accommodation at Abaca to begin studies.Students set off from their accommodation at Abaca to begin studies.

Walking the Mount Batilamu trail and reaching the summit were highlights for students and the second week spent at the Abaca ecotourism village exposed them to the richness of Fiji’s culture and customs.

“It was a real privilege to experience the hospitality and generosity of the people in the village,” Emilia says.

“Anyone interested in a study tour should go into the experience open minded and be willing to make the most of every opportunity while you are there.”

Trip organisers included UniSA’s Senior Lecturers Dr Gunnar Keppel and Dr Sharolyn Anderson.

Dr Keppel says interacting with students from two other universities was extremely beneficial for the UniSA students.

“Experiencing and sharing how students from other universities in the same field learn was very educational and resulted in mutual respect,” Dr Keppel says.

The trip was funded by the Australian Government through the New Colombo Plan.