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Shane dives in to dream internship


Zuleika Henderson
23 December 2010
Lismore-based Southern Cross University student Shane Preston is enjoying the memories after just returning from a dream internship in Fiji helping to protect its delicate marine environment.

Shane, who is completing a Bachelor of Marine Science and Management through the School of Environmental Science and Management, spent 10 weeks on the Pacific island of Leleuvia helping conduct a baseline survey of local waters with the goal of setting up locally managed marine park areas.

The internship was run by South Pacific Projects, a UK-based non-profit marine conservation organisation working in Fiji to provide volunteer opportunities on marine conservation and research expeditions.

Shane, who last year used his summer break to travel to Costa Rica and get his dive instructor’s certificate, said he was excited to be able to combine his diving skills with his studies on the internship to train volunteers to help with the research.

“I basically wrote to South Pacific Projects offering my services in dive instructing and helping with the marine science research in exchange for food and board - and they offered me this amazing opportunity,” said Shane.

“Most of my work involved teaching volunteers on six-week conservation expeditions about fish and other species identification, as well as survey methods to show them how to collect and record information scientifically.

“We were recording 67 types of fish as well as many coral and invertebrate species, so it was a pretty interesting as well as beautiful place to go to work!

“The internship also involved a few visits to local schools to educate the children there about what a fantastic resource their environment is and how they can help protect it.

“While I was there I also worked on developing a habitat mapping project identifying where habitats such as coral and sea grasses exist around the island, so it was satisfying to put my studies into practice and be able to provide some useful expertise.”

The research and projects undertaken by South Pacific Projects aim to help the community, the Department of Fisheries, and other local organisations to work together to develop sustainable local environmental management plans for the unique reef systems of the region.

Shane, who was offered a continuing job on the island, said he had decided to return to Australia to finish his course in Coffs Harbour next year.

“It was tempting to stay but I’d like to finish my course first and there may be an opportunity to go back in the future,” said Shane.

“I’m very keen on scientific diving and I’m interested in doing some postgraduate research work on volunteer conservation and what it can achieve.

“Hopefully now the link has been established between South Pacific Projects and Southern Cross University, more internships and opportunities will come up and other students will get to have the same amazing experience as I have.”

Photo: Shane Preston (high resolution image available on request)