Lavenia Tawake, Environment Project Manager at The University of the South Pacific’s Institute of Applied Sciences (USP-IAS) has won the AFG-Global Development Network (GDN) Biodiversity and Development Award this year.
The research prize valued at US50, 000 included Ms Tawake’s winning entry from Fiji and a joint interdisciplinary category winner from Ghana, with bonus cash for a collaborative project on biodiversity communication. The project involves strengthening science communication to improve biodiversity integration in Ramsa coastal lagoons in Fiji and Ghana.
Ms Tawake, an Environmental Scientist, has extensive research experience in natural resources management, coastal management, climate change adaptation and mitigation in Fiji and the region. She had previously researched adaptive learning with indigenous communities in Far North Queensland while studying at the University of the Sunshine Coast.
She has worked with the Commonwealth Scientific Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) Office in Cairns, where she worked with Indigenous communities in the Torres Strait Islands around Marine Ecosystem Health and Turtle and Dugong Management. Before studying in Australia, she worked with the Integrated Coastal Management Project and the Locally Managed Marine Area Network Projects in various Fiji groups.
Ms Tawake expressed her gratitude for being chosen for the Biodiversity and Development Award, and she expressed her eagerness to learn from all stakeholders in the Fijian Environmental Impact Assessment community.
“I hope that the findings of this research will assist in ensuring that development projects in Fiji encourage biodiversity protection,” she added.
Acting Director, IAS, Dr Isoa Korovulavula said the Award is a testament to the staff’s caliber and USP’s research capabilities in the region, which is attaining global recognition.
“It is a proud moment for IAS, USP as it also encourage upcoming scientists to explore and compete globally for research funds resulting in more informed policies and better and inclusive development in Fiji and the region,” he added.
The GDN is a public international organisation supporting high quality, policy-oriented and social science research in developing and transitioning countries to promote better lives. It helps researchers with financial resources, global networking, and access to information, training, peer review and mentoring.
Beyond funding, GDN supports projects with tailored opportunities for mentoring, peer-review and networking, including through interactions with a Scientific Committee that will oversee the program and support quality control.
The research award involved the Evaluation and Review of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Guidelines for Fiji. The main objective of the research is to evaluate past EIAs reporting and determine how the current EIA guidelines and its relevant processes can be improved in ensuring environment (biodiversity) and development evolve together in an upward direction for Fiji.
The AFD-GDN Biodiversity and development program is competitive and subject to a rigorous selection process based on scientific excellence. Each winner receives a two-year research grant to carry out the selected project. The selected researchers also receive scientific mentoring.