Latest news and insights from various sources relating to UN Sustainable Development Goals.


The Ecotourism Australia team had its first meeting last week with the new cohort of ecotourism PhD candidates from the University of Queensland, who have now begun their studies into some of the most pressing matters facing the industry.

Four students, hailing from a diverse set of backgrounds, were offered scholarships last year following an extensive and competitive selection process. The four PhD topics were collaboratively designed by The University of Queensland Business, Economics and Law faculty staff and Ecotourism Australia, taking into account the future needs of the industry as well as current challenges. The establishment of the PhD placements and securing of scholarship funds were made possible through a Memorandum of Understanding signed by both organisations at Ecotourism Australia’s Global Eco Conference in Townsville in 2018.

Regular updates about the progressing research will be provided through Ecotourism Australia’s communication channels over time. If you are interested in learning more or being involved, please contact Lina Cronin at [email protected].

Candidate profiles

Csilla phd cropped

Name: Csilla Demeter

Research topic: Transitioning to a Low Carbon Future

Professional/academic background: I hold a master’s degree in International Business and Economics from the University of West Hungary and a masters in Tourism, Hotel and Event Management from the University of Queensland. I held various positions in the hospitality and event industry. I worked as a casual academic tutoring across courses like Hospitality Small Business Enterprises; Tourism Policy and Planning; Managing Resources in Tourism, Hospitality and Events and Global Hospitality Operations at the University of Queensland.

Your favourite outdoor activity: ocean swimming, snorkelling

Your favourite ecotourism destination: Great Barrier Reef

Ximena in Tasmania phd 2

Name: Ana Ximena Alvis Gonzales

Research topic: Sustainable Tourism Destinations

Professional/academic background: I’ve worked in the field of tourism for more than 10 years in 3 countries. In Bolivia, I coordinated with communities, and the public and private sectors to implement best practices in sustainable eco-tourism. In Mexico, I supported the development of cultural tourism in indigenous communities with the goal of improving rural women’s livelihoods. In the USA, I supported CREST, an international NGO focused on promoting sustainable tourism.”

My academic background both at the graduate-level and undergraduate-level complements my professional experience. I completed a master’s degree in Sustainable Tourism from the Universidad de Cooperacion (UCI) in Costa Rica. In Bolivia, I completed a bachelor’s degree with a specialization in eco-tourism, with a focus on tourism design and customer service.

Your favourite outdoor activity: Bush hiking in all the green spaces that Queensland has to offer.

Your favourite ecotourism destination: Too many to count!! But my favourite so far is Whitsunday Island, Queensland.

Hieu nguyen phd 


Name: NGUYEN, Thi Hieu

Research topic: Overtourism in National Parks

Professional/academic background: Hieu possesses a Master of Environmental Management degree from the University of Queensland in 2015 and a Bachelor of Environmental Science (the major of Human Ecology) from Vietnam National University in 2008. Hieu has led a number of research designed to conserve natural resources, assess impact of development projects and to improve livelihoods of rural people, particularly ethnic minority/Indigenous peoples and women, whose livelihoods rely on the natural resources in Vietnam. These projects have applied the views of both environmental and social sciences to align the technical, legal, policy and management factors which are needed to address social environmental issues.

Your favourite outdoor activity: bush walking and trekking

Your favourite ecotourism destination: cultural and natural heritage sites

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Name: Sonya Underdahl

Research topic: Researching the social licence of conducting commercial tourism into National Parks

Professional/academic background: Ecoguide, National Parks, Environmental Sociologist, Tourism Resort Manager, and PhD Candidate.

Your favourite outdoor activity: I love swimming and snorkelling, walking through forests, eating Tim Tams with a coffee, and gardening, although the latter I am not great at!

My favourite ecotourism destination? Each has something different, something unique to offer, making a singular destination impossible to choose. However, with Covid-19 I am rediscovering the magic of the rainforest in my back yard – Springbrook National Park. It captured my heart when I was a young girl and continues to do so now.



[Header image: Port Douglas by gyuste17/Pixabay] 



Are you spending a lot of time at home looking out of your windows, dreaming of all the places you’d rather be? Well, it’s time to make your staring count.

From now until Sunday the 19th of April, you can join people from all around Australia for the National Wild Pollinator Count – a long-term citizen science project that tracks native pollinator species around Australia. What’s required of you? Just to sit and watch any flowering plant for ten minutes and record the insects you see.

Yes, making a difference in the world can be that easy.

Uralba Eco Cottages flower website

Photo: Uralba Eco Cottages / Facebook

The National Wild Pollinator Count is just one of many activities happening around the country as part of Citizen Science Month this April, so if counting bees and butterflies is not your thing, you’ll be happy to know that there are a lot of other opportunities to get involved, too.

And you don’t even need to break any ‘iso’ rules to contribute!

Cruise Maroochy Eco FB

Photo: Cruise Maroochy Eco Tours / Facebook

From recording the birds you see around you (bonus points if you see any of the special April birds) to finding, recording and validating frog calls in your backyard, citizen science – or public participation and collaboration in scientific research with the aim to increase scientific knowledge – is an easy and productive way to pass some time while you’re forced to stay at home.

The best part is, your contribution could make a real difference to conservation outcomes and advances in scientific knowledge related to the environment, disease control and much more. Plus – you can get the whole family involved. Win-win!

Brogers End NSW Family 2

Photo: Broger’s End Kangaroo Valley

“Citizen scientists can work from home too,” says Dr Julie Vercelloni, Research Scientist Fellow at QUT and one of the scientists behind the Virtual Reef Diver project, which brings spatial science and maths together to map the Great Barrier Reef’s coral cover and help protect the Reef for future generations.

“On Virtual Reef Diver, you can help protect the Reef by classifying underwater images. We have data that need to be analysed and transformed into valuable information to help scientists and managers monitor the Great Barrier Reef. It’s an excellent opportunity to stay connected with your passion while you are not able to travel.”

Wings Whitsunday Adventures coral FB

Photo: Wings Sailing Tours / Facebook

For more great citizen science projects to get involved in this month, check out the links below:


  • Collect and record data that will help shape Australia’s scientific response to climate change with ClimateWatch.


  • If you live along the coast and hinterlands of the south-eastern corner of Australia, you can help document the biodiversity of the region by recording what you see on Naturemapr.
  • Play the Questa game – the world’s first game that allows players to help save life on earth!
  • Set up a Backyard Bio Blitz to track nature in your own backyard and be part of the City Nature Challenge happening in Adelaide, Geelong, Redlands City and Sydney from 24-27 April.

Understand Down Under FB 2

Photo: Understand Down Under / Facebook


  • Help monitor wildlife in Australia’s cities by recording what you see in the Urban Wildlife app. This information helps scientists to understand how native wildlife populations can best co-exist with humans.


  • Complete quests to help Australian scientists understand how galaxies grow and evolve by joining Astroquest.

Wilpena Pound Resort SA Accommodation Night Sky

Photo: Wilpena Pound Resort


–          What is citizen science?

–          The 10 principles of citizen science

–          Introduction to citizen science tutorial

Have you been involved in any citizen science projects? Let us know in the comments below!


[Cover image: Tropic Wings Cairns Tours & Wooroonooran Safaris / Facebook]


When Peter and Kerry bought their 13-acre property, with a retail nursery on site, in Dunbogan on the Mid North Coast of NSW in 2004, they had no idea of what the future would hold.  All they knew was that they had bought a property of sub-tropical rainforest with 400 metres of river and zoned wetlands on one side and a short stroll to the beach on the other.

Sixteen years later they have transformed the old retail nursery into botanic style gardens with an open coffee bar, built two luxury eco-treehouses that attract visitors from all around the world, and in November 2019, they opened The Fernery at Diamond Waters wedding, small business conference multipurpose centre. The diversification from plant nursery to tourism is now complete.

Treehouse verandah

Photo credit: Little Glimpses Photography from Bonny Hills

The Treehouses were built on the principle of treading lightly on the environment. By using a 10-point matrix development plan, the Treehouses were built using completely recycled or recyclable materials, zero volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and zero pest chemical treatment strategies. The Treehouses feature 100% rainwater use, on site composting of all organic matter, a state-of-the-art low energy water treatment system, and the solar systems installed at the time of development provide more energy than is used. 

Wetland photo

Photo credit: Little Glimpses Photography from Bonny Hills

For Peter and Kerry, the true joy of tourism has been the people that they have met from all over Australia and the world. Thirty five percent of their guests have been self-driving international guests, predominantly from Europe and Asia, but also from Iran, Russia, Africa, Canada and the Americas.

As a former health service manager, Peter needed no convincing of the quality improvement principles and benefits of accreditation and the Treehouses attained Advanced Ecotourism and Climate Action Business certification shortly after opening.

Garden Bar Night 1

Photo credit: Little Glimpses Photography from Bonny Hills

The next stage of development was The Fernery at Diamond Waters events centre. Nestled into the botanic style gardens, The Fernery has been another exercise in stepping outside of traditional building practices to achieve a low impact sustainable result. Solid block Hebel walls, 150mm sandwich roofing and ‘reverse insulation’ techniques were used for maximum sound and cooling temperature solutions, and even in summer, no air conditioning is necessary.  The project was supported by the Destination NSW Regional Tourism Product Development Fund.

The target wedding market for The Fernery are couples seeking a beautiful location and venue to host an accessible and affordable eco-style wedding where they can choose their own stylists, caterers, drinks and bar options. The photos shown in this article are from Dan and Gabi’s wedding where everyone travelled 180 kilometres from Newcastle, staying in accommodation all around the beautiful Camden Haven region. It was a stunning event. At this last wedding not one piece of plastic was used, and all waste consisted of either recycled (10c refund) bottles or purely on-site compostable matter. The property’s pet goats ate the corsages and floral decorations!

The Fernery Night 1

Photo credit: Little Glimpses Photography from Bonny Hills

Not content with stopping there, Peter and Kerry are now working on their approved 66 metre wetland walkway and bird hide that will provide all guests with the opportunity to explore the wetlands and provide a gateway for kayaking opportunities.  When this project is completed it will also mean the Treehouses, The Fernery, all gardens and the pathways from the car park to the water’s edge will be wheelchair accessible, a rare achievement for such a large property.

When the COVID 19 crisis is over the Treehouse Retreat will emerge as an enhanced ecotourism experience.


For more information about the Diamond Waters Treehouse Retreat, check them out in our Green Travel Guide.


[Cover photo credit: Little Glimpses Photography from Bonny Hills]