Coastal communities have Lisa on their side



James Cook University student Lisa Stevenson’s list of impressive academic achievements has grown after recently being selected as Australia’s only representative at the Asia-Pacific Youth Science Exchange Forum in Japan.

In 2008, Lisa and her sisters Kate and Amy, who are triplets, made national news headlines by all being named Dux of their school, Wavell State High School.

The triplets could not be separated academically, so for the first time in the history of the school, and possibly any Australian school, the award was given to all three.

Lisa headed north and after choosing Conservation Biology for her studies, was soon after awarded the JCU’s Faculty of Science and Engineering Pro Vice Chancellor’s Bursary.

Now a third year student in a Bachelor of Science (Ecology & Conservation) (Advanced) degree, Lisa recently returned from Okinawa after the four-day youth forum, which focussed on a range of issues facing ‘island nations’.

The event, which was held from September 23 to 26, was hosted by the University of the Ryukyus and the Okinawa Institute of Science & Technology. It included 36 students and eight panel members, the latter being young researchers.

The forum’s theme was ‘Coral reef ecosystems, island nations and the sustainability of coastal communities in the 21st century’.

“It was designed to bring together undergraduate students and young researchers from across the Asia-Pacific to discuss the impact of climate change and other environmental issues on coastal communities,” Lisa said.

Apart from Australia, it involved students from Japan, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Hawaii, Guam, Tonga, Taiwan, Samoa, Vietnam, Indonesia, New Caledonia, Palau and the Philippines.

She said they shared their experiences with common issues facing island communities, such as climate change, environmental pollution, over-exploitation of resources and community engagement.

“The students worked together with a panel of young researchers, who were also from island nations – Hawaii, Taiwan, Solomon Islands and Japan.”

Lisa said it was an enlightening experience.

“The forum was very interesting because it was my first conference, and I got to experience the process of drafting a position statement. Reaching a consensus as part of such a large group takes a lot of work.

“Talking to the other delegates has really increased my awareness about how environmental changes will affect small island communities, because now I know and am friends with people from these areas.”

She said her role in the forum was to contribute to the discussion and drafting of the resolution from an Australian perspective.

“Topics ranged from pollution, industrialisation, logging and overexploitation of resources,” Lisa said. “Mine was titled ‘Striking a balance: Townsville Port and the Great Barrier Reef’, and highlighted the importance of balancing economic development with environmental sustainability.

“This issue is important because the Townsville Port has a huge role in trade, but is also in close proximity to environmentally sensitive areas, protected zones, and the GBR. Balancing industry with the environment is also relevant to developing nations, which will have to deal with this issue in the future.”

Lisa said she hoped the forum ‘opened the eyes’ of all who participated.

“The coast and sea forms is ????an integral part of the identity of coastal communities, and if we lose these we lose part of ourselves,” she said.

“Healthy and intact ecosystems are essential for the perpetuation of coastal communities, now and into the future.

“The time for meaningful and direct action is now. We need to open our eyes and get started.”

Lisa was nominated to take part in the forum by a member of JCU staff in the School of Marine and Tropical Biology. Nominees had to submit an application to be part of the forum and successful supplicants were invited to attend.