Pacific ecotourism prompts PhD study

A Griffith PhD student is visiting the idyllic villages of Fiji and the Solomon Islands to see how environmental tourism can boost the developing island nations.

Funded by charitable trust Nature Fiji, Rochelle Steven from Griffith’s School of

Environment has been offered the chance to fly to Fiji where she will be undertaking a feasibility study with a view to launching ‘village-stay’ bird watching


The Gold Coast post-graduate student will be staying in the heart of the village with the local community where she will be assessing the numbers of native birds such as the Red-Throated Lorikeet.

“If numbers are good then we will be advising of the benefits that bird watching tours and other sorts of environmental tourism can bring to this region,” said Rochelle.

“We also want to look at the reasons that people are currently visiting these areas. If it is for environmental reasons, then we need to explore what types of activities they are undertaking, the impact it may have on the environment and a look at where the money goes.

“There will be a lot of interaction with local organisations and national parks in

order to complete my reports at the end of the visit.”

Also funded by an Australian Post-Graduate Award (APA) of $22,000 per year for her living expenses, Rochelle said she has always had a long-term interest in how environmental tourism can contribute to the needs of developing countries as opposed to extractive activity such as mining and logging.

“These are currently big threats to the biodiversity in Western Pacific regions and I

am keen to look at alternative means of contributing to the economies of these


The Solomon Islands will be next on Rochelle’s list of countries to visit and where she will build on her research, followed potentially by Vanuatu and New Caledonia.

“Funding permitted, I will be looking to expand on my work in Fiji in these two countries where the levels of socio-economic development vary.

“I will be comparing how tourism is happening in these countries based on their different governance systems, their land tenure arrangements and the existing ecotourism arrangements they have in place.”

Long-term, Rochelle said that with her passion for conserving ecosystems, she is keen to influence decision makers and the general community in conserving biodiversity while maintaining sustainable economic development.

Rochelle’s work is being carried out under the supervision of Dr Guy Castley and Dr Clare Morrison.