Science Out of the Lab: The New Colombo Plan Experience

Morning research sunrise over Mount Rinjani, Lombok island in Indonesia. This mountain was the geographical focus of my independent research project.

Morning research sunrise over Mount Rinjani, Lombok island in Indonesia. This mountain was the geographical focus of my independent research project.

Brittany Betteridge is a BSc/BA degree student at the University of Sydney. Brittany has twice studied abroad as a New Colombo Plan scholar and is an alumna of The Women’s College.


As a Geography student, the practical component of our degrees does not require being cooped up in a lab, nor acquiring RSI from our right wrist from micro pipetting. From January to July this year, I participated in a Semester Long Geography Immersion program to Indonesia. This was supported by a New Colombo Plan Mobility scholarship. The program incorporated Indonesian language study, two in-country fieldwork schools and an internship component. For the purposes of this blog, I’m going to share a little bit about both the field schools and the internship component of the program.

One of the largest questions about international tourism focuses on whether the relationship between host and visitor is a mutualistic relationship. This includes how to correctly manage large volumes of tourists in one area, without environmental degradation and disregard of local cultural beliefs. For my first field school, the University of Indonesia and my fellow Sydney immersion program students travelled to the island of Lombok in Eastern Indonesia to investigate sustainable tourism. Lombok is often thought of as akin to a ‘European’ Bali; its island dive resorts are as popular to European tourists as Bali’s Kuta beach is to Australians in ‘Bintang’ singlets. My focus was on Mount Rinjani, a mountain with sacred significance to the indigenous Sasak people in Lombok. It is also an extremely popular trekking site for foreign tourists looking to prove their mettle by completing the grueling volcano hike over a number of days. This means there are divergent land use desires between these two groups, which require careful management to avoid conflict and maintain sustainability.

My research involved staying in the mountains and interviewing local business owners and trekking guides in the area. Although park management of Rinjani is considered very successful in sustainable tourism discourse, my interviews revealed many possible areas of improvement. This included increased autonomy of local government funds, higher level training in business management for locals, increased rubbish collection and creation of pathways for local Sasak women to gain benefits from the growing tourism industry. It was very exciting to build on prior research in the area conducted in the mid 2000s, as well as to utilize stakeholder interviewer techniques adapted from a similar study in Bali.

For my internship component, I interned at the Centre of International Forestry Research (CIFOR) in Bogor. Here, I performed a literature review on extractive industries use of cash transfers in improving local livelihoods to learn lessons for community forestry programs. All students on the program undertook different internships. Other internships included;

  • Working with United Way Indonesia on a research paper on housing policy in Jakarta
  • Diving everyday with Gili Eco Trust to monitor coastal reef restoration on the tropical island of Gili Trawangan
  • Working with Greencap Jakarta-a large integrated risk management company

For the final section of the trip, other Sydney University students joined us for a secondary field school in Central Java assessing agriculture, poverty alleviation and food access. We were accommodated in local homestays to interview farmers and attended public and private sector discussion groups.

Consequently, my main fieldwork OHS risk the past several months has been getting much sun in the field and avoiding tropical mosquito bites at all costs!

If anyone reading is interested in the long immersion scholarship program – here is the link to the School of Geosciences page about it.
Applications for the long immersion program close September 4, 2015. Jeffrey Neilson is also holding an information day soon about the program with the date TBC with this year’s students in attendance.

For the two week 3rd year winter field school component only, here is the link to the Unit of Study page.

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