Posted by Lina Cronin on 30 April 2020 | Comments

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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

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

Sonya phd 2

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] 


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