Conference brings young conservation minds together!

Yashika Nand (in white dress) with fellow SCCS delegates in Brisbane, Australia. Image: Facebook

Yashika Nand (in white dress) with fellow SCCS delegates in Brisbane, Australia. Image: Facebook

Words by Yashika Nand

More than 100 young conservationists and scientists presented their research on areas of spatial planning and prioritization, habitat and species protection, culture and conservation, and the science of effective decision-making for conservation. Participants were mainly graduate students representing their academic institutions and/or organizations. I was amongst the few students from the University of the South Pacific (USP) who got the opportunity to broaden our understanding on current issues, efforts and challenges of global conservation. We got to share our ideas and work to address conservation challenges in Fiji and the wider Pacific region.

The SCCS conference was a great opportunity to connect with young conservationists around the global as well as the larger Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) family. During the conference, I met colleagues from Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, China, and India. I was really impressed with the diversity of our work as an organization on different aspects of conservation and the enthusiasm young WCS scientists and managers have for conservation.

Yashika Nand (in pink dress) with fellow conference delegates. Image: Facebook

Yashika Nand (in pink dress) with fellow conference delegates. Image: Facebook

For example, I learned about the customary use of vulturine parrots and its implications for conservation in the highlands of Papua New Guinea – which incidentally won a special topics award. Our multiple disciplinary approaches link us to conservation in marine and terrestrial environments, endangered species in the wild and traded species, science and culture. The work presented at this conference was just a glimpse of what WCS’ global vision for conservation in future.

As a young conservationist, this conference made me realise the importance of networking and information sharing. Although we focus on different approaches and areas, sharing ideas leads to innovation and this is what strengthens the pillars of our conservation efforts. Different areas of research connect in a unique way in nature – we are more successful when we combine our efforts. As the conference closes, I look forward to the next five days of strengthening my research skills. I will be attending a series of workshop on varies topics from species distribution model, statistics analysis, spatial conservation planning, writing grant proposals, to improving conservation with social science and decision science tools for conservation. Lots to learn and bring home to Fiji!

Reflections on organizing the SCB Oceania Fiji conference

Author Stacy Jupiter (in blue mini-dress) with co-organizers Sangeeta Mangubhai and Rebecca Weeks and participants of a science writing and presenting workshop for young Pacific scientists

Author Stacy Jupiter (in blue mini-dress) with co-organizers Sangeeta Mangubhai and Rebecca Weeks and participants of a science writing and presenting workshop for young Pacific scientists

About 3 years ago, fellow WCS colleague and now President-elect of the Society for Conservation Biology (SCB) James Watson asked me to “throw my name in the hat” to get on the SCB Oceania Board.

Having no idea what this entailed, I penned a quick biography, shot it over to James, and thought nothing more about it until a few months later when he sent me a congratulatory note saying “You’ve been elected!”

His next words were, “We should have a conference in Fiji.”

Uh oh, I sighed. Here we go.

I have some experience running conferences. WCS Fiji ran two very successful Fiji Conservation Science Forums in 2009 and 2011. But those were easy and local.

For the SCB Conference, we had the challenge of developing a website and portal to accept registration, developing scientific content and associated workshops, inviting interesting plenary speakers, fundraising to support attendance by young Pacific Islanders, and ensuring there was enough money in the coffers to pay for all of the conference goodies (e.g. water bottles, bags, name badges, food, and evening entertainment – a must!).

The first thing to do was round up some help. I begged and arm-twisted a very capable team to form a local organizing committee, including the generous Gilianne Brodie and ebullient Randy Thaman of the University of the South Pacific (USP). The incredibly organized Tamara Osborne arranged for a team of 50 USP student volunteers to handle all of those nitpicky logistical issues and deal with the inevitable barrage of questions from confused participants during the event. Our dedicated student committee members, Moana Waqa and Aman Narayan, planned a fantastic student evening networking event. Our own Sangeeta Mangubhai went through round after round of refining the scientific program to ensure that we had well-matched content in sessions. Swee Kok knocked on doors all over town to wrangle up items for our silent auction to support local NGO NatureFiji-MareqetiViti in their work to develop a national park on Taveuni. Meanwhile, our two jacks-of-all-trade, Dwain Qalovaki and Mata St. John stayed up late into the evenings hoping, wishing, praying that everything would go to plan when the first event of the Society for Conservation Biology 2014 Fiji conference opened on July 7.

Some of the 50 USP student volunteers who so capably assisted at the SCBO 2014 Fiji conference

Some of the 50 USP student volunteers who so capably assisted at the SCBO 2014 Fiji conference

Having lost nearly all of my weekends and evenings since February to conference planning, I was at the end of a very thin rope by the time the first workshops began. I spent most of Sunday night awake after dreaming of lecture theatres getting flooded by tsunamis – clearly a projection of my internalized fear that utter disaster would befall us.

But the floods didn’t come. The projectors all worked (for the most part). People showed up who were registered. We had over 200 participants in total, coming from Australia, New Zealand, Japan, India, USA, Samoa, Kiribati, French Polynesia, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Tonga and . . . of course, Fiji!

The most exciting part of all was seeing our Pacific students and young conservationists shine during the event. Their presentations ranged from shark biology, to conservation of bats and herpetofauna in Solomon Islands, to understanding home ranges of cuscus in Papua New Guinea, to cetacean songs in Fiji and Tonga, to distributions of coral disease, and much, much more.

So was all of the pain worth it? I can truly say that seeing the future of Pacific Island conservation made me forget about all of those dark hours fiddling with font size on the conference program. During the week I was able to develop new networks, showcase our good work from WCS Fiji, and show off what makes Fiji so special.

Vinaka vakalevu to all that were involved in organizing this truly successful event. We look forward to the next SCB Oceania conference in Brisbane in 2016 (just please don’t put us on the organizing committee!).

Proceedings of 2nd Fiji Conservation Science Forum

Full Proceedings of the 2nd FCSF are now available on CD, including copies of all the 53 presentations. Please come and pick up your CD from the WCS Fiji office at 11 Ma’afu Street in Suva. If you are not based in Suva and would like a copy, please let us know and we will send a CD by post. The summary Proceedings (without links to the presentations) can also be downloaded from our website at:


The Forum was held in Suva in September 2011 and the main theme was “Confronting the Climate-Biodiversity Crisis”, in recognition of the fact that climate change is an overarching threat that may be exacerbating impacts to species and habitats in Fiji and the region. As a lead off to the event, Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, Director of the Global Change Institute at the University of Queensland, highlighted the many ways that climate change is affecting biodiversity in the region and offered some thought-provoking solutions for managing the problems. The keynote presentation was followed over the course of three days by seven thematic sessions on (1) Ecology and Management of Fiji’s Watersheds, (2) Terrestrial Species, (3) Marine Species, (4) Results from Fiji’s Locally Managed Marine Areas, (5) Scaling-up Local Management to Meet National Priorities, (6) Socio-Ecological Tools for Climate Change Adaptation, and (7) Adaptive Management. The room at Studio 6 was consistently full with at least 195 participants from 64 different organizations across academia, development, community, government, non-government, and the private sector.

Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg delivers his keynote address to open the 2nd Fiji Conservation Science Forum in Suva.









2nd Fiji Conservation Science Forum

2nd Fiji Conservation Science Forum

After the great success of the 1st Fiji Conservation Science Forum in 2009, we are pleased to announce that the 2nd Fiji Conservation Science Forum will be held in Suva, from September 14th-16th, 2011. The theme for the conference will be “Confronting the Climate-Biodiversity Crisis”. The meeting will provide a unique opportunity for scientists, conservation practitioners, decision and policy‐makers in Fiji to get together and discuss recent, current and future projects relevant to safeguarding Fiji’s people and environment against the impacts of climate change. We hope to see you there!

Second Fiji Conservation Science Forum – September 14-16, 2011 – Link to website

Abstracts are due July 1, 2011.