This summer, six A Level Biology students from Havant & South Downs College travelled 10,000 miles to Fiji for conservation work, volunteering for charity Operation Wallacea.
Operation Wallacea is a network of academics from European and North American universities, who design and implement biodiversity and conservation management research expeditions.
Research is supported by students who join the programme to strengthen their CV or collect data for a dissertation or thesis. Academics benefit from funding for high quality fieldwork, enabling them to publish papers in peer-reviewed journals.
The students and two members of HSDC staff set off for their 48-hour journey on 13 July. When they finally arrived at Labasa they were greeted by Cheryl, a representative from operation Wallacea. They then travelled a further hour and a half to SavuSavu.
Tam Jenkins, staff member at HSDC who accompanied the students on their trip, said: “After lunch we travelled a further hour and a half to be greeted by the villagers, unbeknown to us soon to be our new Fijian family.
“We participated in a ceremony to welcome us to the village and then settled into our homes and became a part of their community.
“The following day they showed us how to collect coconuts from trees and drink fresh juice from inside them. We joined them in making a Lavu meal – a form of cooking in an underground oven. We ate the food together on the banks of a clear river. We visited the local primary school and made Tapa paintings from tree bark.”
The Biology students spent the following few days with scientists from around the world – specialising in finding rare species of animals and insects on the Natewa peninsula.
The HSDC group were involved in catching butterflies and birds, identifying them and taking their statistics for reports.
Tam continued: “The last week of the trip was based at Natewa Marine site. Some of the group learnt to dive and the rest of the group were helping with surveys of the coral reefs.
“The trip was a great success, we all gained experiences that we probably won’t ever have again.”
Tam added that the best experience was living and integrating with Fijian people in their culture, whilst the worst experience was encountering a huge huntsman spider outside the toilets late at night.
Staff member Nadine Pegley, who also accompanied the students on the trip, said: “The students had so much fun and it was amazing to see them put their learning into practice.
“They were within the first 100 people to dive in the waters of Natewa Bay.
“We are very proud of two of our students, Georgia Whitwham and Amy Smith, who discovered a new species of butterfly which was sent to the National Museum in London.”
Read about the other trips our students have been on: