Wednesday, December 4, 2013

How Ms. Thomas fell in love with nature

Ms. Nunia Thomas

By Maryann Lockington, journalism student at USP

5 December 2013, Suva Fiji - A young woman in a smart green dress - or jaba - stood before hundreds of people at the Vodafone Arena and opened her presentation in her indigenous Fijian (iTaukei) language with an introduction of herself.

Ms. Nunia Thomas hails from Drauniivi in Ra and in her introduction she identified her clan and family animal totem. Then she addressed the rest of the room in English to translate her introduction.

Acknowledging her cultural identity and mentors before passionately advocating the importance of the environment and biodiversity is a trademark of Ms Thomas.

The 32-year-old is the director of Fijian conservation group Nature Fiji-Mareqeti Viti. She completed post-graduate studies at the University of the South Pacific (USP) in 2007 and is now one of Fiji’s leading herpetologists.

Ironically, Ms. Thomas talks about her path to her present work as an accident and blessing. 

Ms. Thomas is the middle child of five siblings of the late Mr. Saimoni Aca Thomas and Mrs. Mereseini Thomas.

Ms. Thomas described her late father as a feminist who encouraged her to be a strong and independent woman. She described her parents as her mentors and advisors.
Ms. Thomas had a keen interest in language, literature and law but followed her parents' advice to pursue science.
“I was naturally interested in science anyway so I kept at it but at university level I wanted to do law,” she said. “I initially was going to disobey my parents' advice.”
Ms. Thomas is a former student of St. Joseph’s Secondary School and at school, her English teacher, Mrs.  Luvena was her mentor. After leaving high school she met her Mrs. Luvena on a bus, who advised her to pursue science.
After high school, Ms. Thomas applied for admission to the biology and chemistry program me at USP but because of limited space, she had to consider the only other option - environmental science.
“I looked at it and I thought okay, I’ll go into environmental science and I did. It was geography and biology and I fell in love with geography right then and there,” she said.
Thomas said her main inspiration were her lecturers and professors and the friends she made within the programme.
Ms. Thomas graduated in 2002 and became a graduate assistant at USP’s South Pacific Regional Herbarium. She then secured a scholarship to go into post-graduate studies and was approached in 2007 by Mr Dick Watling to join Nature Fiji-Mareqeti Viti. After graduation, she joined Nature Fiji-Mareqeti Viti as their first recruit and since then has been involved in various projects and preparing of research papers.
Her message to young people is listen to the advice of parents and mentors before making a decision. Ms. Thomas said she has had many challenges on her journey but she was taught by her parents to view the challenges as an opportunity. She hopes in the future, she could work with children and instil values in young people to have a better appreciation of their culture and nature.
Maryann Lockington is a member of the Media Team providing coverage of the 9th Pacific Islands Conference on Nature Conservation and Protected Areas from 2 to 6 December in Suva, Fiji.  This is a partnership between the Fiji National University (FNU), University of the South Pacific (USP), SPREP and Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) whereby a team of 10 journalism students are mentored by senior reporters as they cover the conference.  This activity is  funded by the Pacific Assistance Media Scheme (PACMAS).

No comments:

Post a Comment