Research interests of staff members.
Emeritus Professor of Pacific Islands Biogeography
Professor Randolph Thaman
Professor Randy Thaman is The University of the South Pacific’s longest serving academic staff member. He joined the University in February 1974. He has conducted research in all the USP member countries, most recently on community-based biodiversity in Fiji, Tonga, Niue Tuvalu and Kiribati, and on the floras of Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Nauru and a number of islands in Fiji. Over the years countless USP students have worked with him on these projects. Many of these students now hold important positions with government and non-government agencies in the areas of environmental management and sustainable development throughout the region.
Professor Thaman has published widely on a range of topics of importance to the Pacific Islands. His main areas of research include environmentally sustainable development, atoll and small-island ecosystems, biodiversity, agroforestry, Pacific Island food systems, ethnobiology and traditional environmental knowledge, Pacific Island floras, community-based biodiversity conservation, and ecotourism and urban gardening
Assoc. Prof. Nicholas Rollings
Nick Rollings is Geoscientist with over 25 years experience in mineral exploration, natural resource management, geospatial science, teaching and research. He specialises in the application of GIS, remote sensing and associated geospatial technologies for natural resources assessment and management, mineral exploration and cultural data management.
His experience includes working in private industry, local government, consulting, and higher education. In the minerals sector, Nick has worked on exploration for gold, base metals, platinum group metals, industrial minerals, extractive minerals and uranium. In the environmental sector Nick has experience applying geospatial technologies to forests, grasslands, soil erosion, water quality, benthic mapping, water quality, cultural information management, landscape futures, rehabilitation, hazard modeling and site selection.
Nick’s current research concentrates on multi-scale UAV and satellite remote sensing for vegetation assessment and coastal assessment, and GIS modelling of cyclone track behavior and impact. Nick has written several geospatial software applications including the development and implementation of large information systems.
Nick is a Member of the Australian Institute of Geoscientists (MAIG).
Dr. Eberhard Weber
Eberhard Weber is interested in the geography of development, urban planning and housing, conflicts over natural resources and environmental security. He also has interests in sustainable development, tourism in developing countries, and migration and population. He is currently investigating environmentally-induced migration. He is also employing vulnerability mapping as a tool in the management of natural hazards. Research on this topic has been completed in Gau Island and is continuing in Nadi. Dr Weber is one of the few social scientists globally who has studied the social impact of a number of tsunamis. He conducted research in Tamil Nadu, India after the 2004 tsunami, in Samoa after the 2009 tsunami and in the Solomon Islands after the 2007 tsunami in the Western Province.
Dr. Eric Katovai
Dr Eric Katovai joined USP in February 2019 after working for Academia in Papua New Guinea for 13 years. Dr Katovai is an Environmental Biologist with specialty in the area of ecosystem functioning, plant ecology, and conservation and restoration. His current research engagements cover themes on Biodiversity, Climate change, Community and Restoration Ecology, and Land use changes and landscape management in Tropical forests in Southeast Asia and Oceania. His research interest spans from examining biodiversity, vegetation dynamics and ecosystem functioning in human-altered landscapes to land-use management and restoration of highly degraded forests in Oceania. Dr Katovai has published a number of scientific papers and also a reviewer in a number of high impact International Journals, as well as in regional journals. Dr Katovai received a Bachelor of Science and a Bachelor of Education from the Pacific Adventist University (Papua New Guinea), a Master of Science from the University of Queensland (Australia) and a PhD in Tropical Ecology from James Cook University (Australia).
Dr. Naohiro Nakamura
Naohiro Nakamura joined the University of the South Pacific as a Lecturer in February 2014, after having taught at four universities in Canada. His research interests are in social and cultural geography and, in particular, in Indigenous cultural representation, Indigenous rights, the protection of Indigenous cultural heritage in development and Indigenous research methods. He has conducted research in an Ainu community in Nibutani, Hokkaido, Japan, in the city of Brantford, near the Six Nations Reserve, Ontario, Canada, and a few rural communities in Fiji. Funded by USP’s Research Office, he is now conducting two research projects: 1) Diet, daily lifestyles, and health conditions in the Pacific Island region: a pilot study of Fiji; and 2) Beyond legislation: women’s experiences and the effectiveness of implementing domestic violence laws in Fiji and Vanuatu.
Dr. Stephen Galvin
Stephen is an expert in biogeography and environmental change and is one of the Principal Investigators of a large study examining the impacts of the invasive Ivory cane palm on Viti Levu’s rainforests. Dr. Galvin is a member of a 28-person team examining the role of ecosystems in disaster risk reduction, the results of which were published in Nature Sustainability in June 2021. He is co-author of a 2021 book chapter focusing on the threats posed by biological invasions on Small Island Developing States, and has undertaken research and published in the area of linking variations in climate with ecological change. Dr Galvin’s has recently (co-)authored papers on the themes of physiological comparisons of invasive and endemic bees in Fiji, tree diversity and vegetation structure of disturbed mangrove systems on Viti Levu, the variability of diurnal temperature range in Fiji, and functional traits of plant communities invaded by an alien palm.
Dr. Tolu Muliaina
Tolu Muliaina joined the University of the South Pacific as a part-time tutor/marker in 1998 in the (then) Department of Geography, The School of Social & Economic Development (SSED). He went on to become the Subject Coordinator in Geography for (then) newly established Pre-Degree Studies Unit (PDSU) in 1999 housed at the University Extension. He returned to the Department of Geography as Lecturer in Human Geography in 2004. His research interests are in cultural, social & development geography and, in particular, Pacific mobility & development, Indigenous education & pedagogies, Indigenous notions of Sustainability, gender & place-based development, Indigenous epistemology and decolonising research methodologies.
Dr. Sarah Pene
Sarah’s primary focus is on plant biogeography, with a particular interest in the ecology and phylogenetics of conservation-significant species. She has also worked on biocontrol of invasive species and vegetation analyses for environmental impact assessments. When it comes to animals she has published various papers to do with the ecology of snakes and moths. Her field expeditions for collecting and documenting the flora have taken her throughout Fiji, to Rotuma, and to the Solomon Islands. She did her doctorate in Dublin, Ireland, with field work throughout southern France, Spain, Portugal and the west coast of Ireland.
Sarah also has extensive experience in the social sciences; she was the Research Officer with the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre, during which time she became the principal author of the 2001 national study on the Incidence and Prevalence of Domestic Violence in Fiji. She also conducted a 2014 national study on public perceptions of women in leadership, and a 2016 scoping study on Pacific Gender Research (through Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development). She is currently the Fiji project manager for a 3-year research project with Griffith University and the International Water Centre, looking at community-based water management. In 2020 she will be beginning a research project with other USP academics to evaluate the effectiveness of domestic violence legislation in Fiji and Vanuatu.
Dr. Kamal Raj Regmi
Kamal joined the USP in Nov 2019. His main areas of research are in hard rock geology (felsic magmatic and metamorphic rocks). His past research is related to the origin and geochemistry of augen gneisses of Nepal Himalaya and origin of granitoids of the Tynong Province, Lachlan Orogen, Australia. He uses the field geology techniques, laboratory works especially petrography and geochemistry to establish genesis, post magmatic modification and economic importance of magmatic rocks. So far genesis of the magmatic rocks is concerned and is interested in single crystal dating (for age), major and trace elements and isotopic ratios.
Dr. Nathan Wales
Nathan Wales is interested in mixed-methods research, including spatio-temporal modelling of vegetation change using GIS and remote sensing, and the application of landscape ecology principles to the quantification of landscape change. His PhD research combined remote-sensing-based change detection, field botanical surveys and community-scale interviews to examine the influence of World Heritage zoning on subsistence use of forest resources, and to understand the relationship between patterns of vegetation change and forest management practices. He has several years’ experience in conservation and geographic information science in Australia, Southeast Asia and the Pacific.
Ms. Arti Pratap
Arti Pratap’s research concerns tropical cyclone meteorology. Specifically, she is interested in the variability of tropical cyclone sinuosity in the southwest Pacific. Cyclone paths determine those parts of the Pacific that are likely to be affected by storms. Understanding the trends and properties of sinuosity may therefore improve our ability to forecast cyclones and their impacts.