Name(s): Nicole Wilson & Dave Ealy
Program: Techniques for Rainforest Research, Australia
Last week, we at the Center for Rainforest Studies got the opportunity to travel to beautiful Mission Beach in Northern Queensland. We set out to find out more about the town by surveying locals and tourists about the economic, ecological, and cultural sustainability of the town. Mission Beach relies on its beautiful beaches and rainforest to attract tourists as one of the main parts of its economy. Recent cyclones and hurricanes have destroyed part of the rainforest, damaged beaches, and crippled the flow of tourists to the town.
Local business owners were, at first, hesitant to answer some questions, but all of them proved open and friendly in the end. They told us that the tourism is important and has been picking up starting this year. The townspeople also expressed pride and love in their local environment. All of them were unwilling to allow land development that would result in the destruction of their picturesque landscape. They said that the land is what attracted them to live in Mission Beach and they would fight tooth-and-nail to prevent changes to their beaches and forests. They believed that the environment is not only one of the main draws of Mission Beach, but also what sets their little town apart from the other beach towns up and down the Queensland coast.
The locals and tourists provided us with a great deal of useful data, which we later compiled in our individual groups (Economics, Ecology, and Culture) to form conclusions about the sustainability of tourism Mission Beach. From this experience, we gained knowledge of the environment of Mission Beach and also a lot practical experience in surveying. Prior to our travels to Mission Beach, we worked in groups to compile the three surveys. We were given criteria to give us an idea of the kinds of questions we should and should not ask, and then wrote out our short surveys that would give us our data after being administered. Each group surveyed 30 people, for a total of 90 people surveyed over a period of two days, after which we returned to the center to make sense of the information we received.
Overall, it was a very rewarding experience where we were able to learn a basic form of data collection that could be very useful in our own future research projects. The best part of the trip, aside from getting to visit the beach and gaining some surveying experience, was hearing about how much pride people have in their town of Mission Beach, and how much people love visiting it, because it made the whole visit all the more amazing and satisfying.