The collaboration between the University of the Sunshine Coast and the Fraser Island Defenders Organisation (FIDO) developed further recently when FIDO made a $100,000 donation to the USC on 1 September to fund research into minimising the impact of vehicle traffic on the fragile natural environment of Fraser Island. The collaboration has grown over recent years from the USC sponsorship of the biennial Fraser Island conferences organized by FIDO and the forthcoming BioBlitz, to assisting the development of the Fraser Island Repository at Sippy Downs and other projects.
The Fraser Island Defenders Organisation (FIDO) has funded a PhD scholarship at USC following a generous bequest from passionate environmentalist Barbara Winkley. The Barbara Winkley-FIDO Fraser Island PhD Scholarship will see a research student investigate the environmental damage caused by vehicle traffic and develop sustainable transport solutions for the iconic island.
USC Lecturer in Geotechnical Engineering, Dr Adrian McCallum, said the scholarship recipient would work closely with FIDO to ensure future generations of visitors could enjoy Fraser Island’s natural setting and wildlife.
“There’s been concern for many years about the effects of traffic on the island,” he said.
“Four-wheel drives and tour buses cause masses of sand to be dislodged, and there are parts of the island where the road surface is now many metres below where it was.
“There’s a potential that visitors could be loving the place to death. We want to sensibly examine current practices around access to the island, the road system, and the impacts that vehicles could be having.
“Ultimately, this research will benefit the island’s incredible environment and also enable the tourist industry on the island to be sustainable.”
FIDO’s benefactor Barbara Winkley was originally from New South Wales, but worked and travelled extensively around Australia, Asia and in her adopted home of Alaska, where she studied a degree in Natural Resource Management.
Ms Winkley died in 2013 and left her $1.5 million estate to be shared between the Australian Conservation Foundation, the Colong Foundation for Wilderness, and FIDO to continue her passion for wilderness preservation. FIDO Honorary Project Officer John Sinclair said the PhD project could make a significant difference in conserving the World Heritage-listed island’s fragile ecology.
“We’ve invested this money in the University of the Sunshine Coast to provide some sustainable solutions to what is a very serious and urgent problem on Fraser Island. FIDO has been collaborating with USC for some time, so it was a logical place to fund a scholarship, and we’re confident it will go a long way to preserving Barbara’s legacy,” John Sinclair said.
The scholarship recipient will be named in December this year, with the project to begin in early 2017.
FIDO has been holding Fraser Island conferences in collaboration with the USC since 2006 but the USC support for these biennial events has grown in recent years as the USC’s research capacity has increased at its Dilli Village Research and Educational Centre.. The next Conference “Time Tide and Tourism” will be held at the Innovations Centre Sippy Downs on Wednesday 16th August. The Conference will be complementary to the USC’s Fraser Island Symposium that will follow over the following two days.
The only free meal that participants in the Beach to Birrabeen Bioblitz that FIDO is organizing 28 November to 4 December will be a barbeque at the conclusion of the event provided courtesy of the USC Vice Chancellor Prof Greg Hill. It is one of the many contributions that the USC is making to as part of this collaborative project to establish some baseline biological data for the World Heritage area that is inscribed to recognize its biological as well as its aesthetic and geomorphic values
“The collaboration between FIDO and the USC, which is now internationally rated amongst the top 200 universities in the world has been mutually beneficial and very productive for both organizations,” John Sinclair concluded.
John Sinclair (AO), FIDO