Wildlife and conservation biology student, Susanna Bryceson, has received a 2014 Prime Minister's Australia Asia Undergraduate Scholarship. With this scholarship she will undertake honours in Botany in Indonesia, followed by an internship.
In Indonesia, Susanna will be working on an Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) funded project, established to improve sustainability of cocoa production.
Indonesia is the world's third largest source of cocoa. Most of this production occurs in Sulawesi on small plantations, which are particularly important to the livelihoods of small farmers and their communities. However, as soil fertility declines in the ageing plantations, pest and disease problems have built up to destructive levels, reducing the yield, quality and profitability of cocoa.
Susanna's project will fit into the wider ACIAR cocoa breeding and management programs to find cocoa varieties that are resistant to local pests and diseases, and develop sustainable farming practices.
The project will help improve sustainable practises of cocoa production, improving productivity, securing farmer income and reducing environmental impact.
'The project will help me understand issues related to establishing agriculture in a biodiversity hotspot and the complexity of the associated cultural and social development issues.'
Susanna says that it is vital that more research is done to understand how to use limited arable lands in a sustainable way.
'This is particularly important as the need for food is increasing with the world's growing population, so we need to find ways to increase productivity without destroying the environment,' says Susanna.
Susanna will work at Hasanuddin University in Makassar, Sulawesi and with farmers in villages throughout South Sulawesi, supervised by Dr Phillip Keane who has led the project since 2001.
Susanna was surprised and grateful to receive the scholarship.
'I'm so appreciative of the fantastic 4 years I've had being taught by the staff in School of Biological Sciences.
'I'm proud to be offered this great opportunity.'
Throughout her studies, Susanna has worked part-time as a teacher and Course Co-ordinator of professional writing at Victoria University.
'For my Honours year, I'm taking leave from my job and I expect to learn a lot about myself and the opportunities that may be available.'
'I have had a stimulating and enjoyable working life so far in publishing and teaching, during which I've free-lanced for a number of government and private organisations, mainly working as an editor and writer on urban and environmental issues.'