I feel extremely fortunate to have been given the opportunity to spend four days at Lady Elliot Island to learn about sustainable development and the Great Barrier Reef as part of the Global Change Scholars Program at the University of Queensland.
It was super fun hanging out and snorkelling with my thirty fellow PhD students in the program! We're all from varying backgrounds so it was great to hear how each of them were going and how they were finding their PhD experience.
We were really lucky to have the opportunity to speak with Peter Gash (Managing Director of Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort, amongst other things) and Anna Marsden (Managing Director of the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, amongst other things). The lessons they had to pass on were timely and significant. Particularly the importance of hard work combined with passion in any success story, being ready and willing to adapt, the importance of the people around us (we focus a lot on individual success stories, but in reality we only achieve things with the help of people that surround us) and not letting your ego or politics get in the way of bigger and more important goals.
Lady Elliot Island is a coral cay (a small sandy island on the surface of a coral reef) located at the southern tip of Australia's World Heritage Listed Great Barrier Reef. When Europeans found the island it was covered in 2m of bird poo (guano)! Which they mined, cutting down all the trees in the process. The Island was almost lost but for the work of some exceptional humans who endeavoured to restore the native habitat and ensure that even though the Great Barrier Reef is suffering from severe degradation at the hands of climate change, this area will be protected and act as a refuge or 'ark' from which to rebuild the Reef. Currently it is home for over 1,200 species of marine life and unspoilt coral reef. I saw so many turtles snorkelling! They are such magical creatures underwater 🐟🐢🐡
Lady Elliot Island is moving to 100% renewable energy by 2020, not just so that they operate with less of an impact on the environment, but also because it is cheaper and more efficient for them to do so.