About The Project

Due to the nature of the required research and the background of the two directors the centre is multidisciplinary in its approach. As many in the conservation field are beginning to understand this approach brings together the expertise and knowledge base from diverse perspectives that combined provide a powerfully effective conservation outcome.


euakafa property 4


To explain further this page breaks down a number of the disciplinary directions that the Euakafa Island Reearch Centre is pursuing.


Marine and Coastal Education:


Richard is currently researching marine and coastal education throughout Australia and the Pacific as part of a masters that will be upgraded to a PhD in 2012. As such there will be a heavy emphasis on marine education on the island and all research conducted from the centre will have a component of education incorporated within its structure. This gives both local and visiting students insight into the mechanics of field research while also allowing the students to fully appreciate and become involved in that work. Evidence indicates that exposure to this type of 'real' science and research can have significant, positive impacts on students. The ideal result is a new generation of young adults who deeply understand the importance and worth of knowing how our world works and may even convince a few to seek a career in the fields in which they're exposed.  Even if they don't choose a career as a marine biologist, climate change scientist, archeologist or any research orientated profession it gives them a solid, invaluable and unique appreciation of their surrounding marine and terrestrial environment.


Climate Change:


A group of paleo-environmental and marine scientists approached the directors earlier 2011 about setting up a research project into climate change on Euakafa Island. The outcome was to develop a research proposal and to apply for international funding to investigate paleo-environmental climate history from dead coral analysis from the reefs surrounding the island. The technology used to investigate the data carried in the dead coral are cutting edge and allow significant improvement in dating accuracy that to date was unheard of.

The research will help the Tongan Government help understand the future impacts of climte change - such as rising sea levels and increased severe weather events - and make appropriate plans to ensure the security of the Tongan people.

Two Australian universities, Southern Cross University (SCU) and the University of Queensland (UQ) - the universities where the majority of the scientists work - and a German University, Mainz University, are involved in the project. 




Again, as Richard has extensive experience - and is lecturing - in aquaculture the idea to set up and establish aquaculture facilities on Euakafa was not a great leap. His experience has predominantly been with molluscan species - both commercially in pearling and with research on giant clams, oysters and abalone - so establishing facilties to produce giant clams was an obvious choice. The idea is to work closely with the Tongan Mariculture Centre in Tongatapu to develop a reseeding program for giant clams. The Mariculture Centre has already produced spat and funding is being sought to expand production so that Euakafa Island Research Centre can begin growing the clams around the island and further afield in Vava'u. The local community will be involved with the growout of the individual clams which will be monitored by selected members of the community as well as by the communty/village closest to the growout area. In the past attempts to reseed giant clams have run into problems but it hoped that through consultation, involvement of each community group and with the help of local school students this project will succeed.


Marine Research:


The first is to set up and maintain a marine research centre based on Euakafa Island in the Vava’u Provence. To facilitate this we will be working closely with the Tongan Government - in particular the Ministry for the Environment and Climate Change and the Ministry for Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture) the United Nations Development Programme, 

euakafa property 3

IUCN's World Commission on Protected Areas, the Tongan Community Development Trust, various Non Government Organisations (NGOs), Universities and Secondary Schools from within Australia and Pacific Island Nations. Marine Education is incredibly important and will be a key component of the work carried out on Euakafa Island Research Centre.


While there is a heavy emphasis on scientific research we are also very mindful of transferring knowledge not only to those students who participate in short term educational programmes but to the local residents of Vava’u. We are very keen to have local school students and local communities involved with what we're trying to do and will be pairing international students with local students on Euakafa and in Vava'u in general. Particular attention will be applied to establishing a co operational approach between locals who have generations of expertise and understanding of their immediate natural environment and individuals bringing in different skills and perspectives from their own countries. The project is firmly multicultural and would ensure that the local communities are duly acknowledged for their help and are provided opportunity, training and a forum to express any concerns that may arise during the life of the project.


Richard Wylie Presented at the IUCN's Oceania Regional Conservation Forum in Brisbane in August 2011 and again, on behalf of the Euakafa Island Research Centre made an offer to any scientists, organisations and Institutes that are interested in using our facilities to contact us as we firmly believe that interdisciplinary approaches to science and education produce creative and dynamic outcomes. We hope that a synergy of common interests will help develop the centre and contribute to greater cooperation between scientists around the world and within the region.

euakafa60The centre would endeavour to provide a number of educational programmes for both local and international students. The format of these programmes will depend upon the level of the participant’s knowledge and/or skill but initially we are aiming to provide:


  • a ‘Marine Studies Course’ for university students from around the world
  • exchange programmes for local Tongans to various locations within Australia and New Zealand
  • international and national primary and secondary student educational programmes involving hands on activities such as identification of healthy or diseased coral reef ecosystems, fish identification and field work experiences that will be used as part of an ongoing, global, scientific study linked to Reef Watch, Coral Watch and various other observational techniques
  • marine education for interested community and school groups


A pilot study has been proposed for the students from Victoria, Australia to be the first to participate in the field work towards the middle of 2012. However, for the educational component to have full impact the research must be important by itself and the centre must be a fully functioning research station with scientific and academic significance to both Tonga and the world in general. The duration of observations must be reasonably flexible to accommodate staffing availability and local weather patterns.





Diabetes Awareness and Health Professional Volunteer Programme 


euakafa property 4Given Debbie's background and skills as a Podiatrist and her extensive involvement in the healthcare industry, health - and in particular Diabetes - will be a primary area of concern for the project. Health Professionals from the Asia Pacific region will be asked to contribute their time and expertise to the local Tongan population in exchange for a short (or long term if appropriate) stay on Euakafa Island (once adequate facilities have been established). While Vava’u has an excellent general hospital and adequate equipment, they do however lack sufficient wound care materials and specialist staffing levels to cope with the diabetes problem endemic to the area. In consequence, wound management is difficult maintain and often the only way to deal with infected limbs is amputation. We would aim to work closely with the local health professionals and to help source more staff, training and educational materials to help deal with the issue. We would also seek to obtain appropriate contemporary wound care consumables as part of an international aid programme and/or corporate goodwill.





The final aim is to set up and fund a scholarship program for students with the drive and interest to go to the University of the South Pacific (based in Fiji) or Australia / New Zealand to study medicine, nursing, allied health or marine science. The scholarship would stipulate that the recipient of the funding would commit to a minimum of five years of 

img 3563

practice within their province of origin in Tonga. We have a candidate in mind to be the first to participate in the programme and he was in fact the inspiration for setting up the scholarship in the first place. 





While the 99 year tenancy agreement has been signed for the three and a half acres of land on the uninhabited island of Euakafa we still have long way to go. We are still working with the Tongan Government to sort out the lease itself but significant advances have been made to secure permits to conduct Aquaculture and further research on the island. A 10,000 litre water tank has been set up on the island for rainwater catchment (the only way to supply water in the area). The power requirements should be relatively minimal initially and will be predominantly supplied via solar panels and storage batteries. The system will be modular in design to cater for any expansion in the future. State of the art composting toilets will be utilised throughout the property and the cleaned soil used as uplift for the small scale organic gardens that sustain facility inhabitants – optimal fruit and vegetable species will be selected based on the local climate and sandy soil characteristics. Finally, the project should be staffed where possible by Tongan citizens and specific projects to be replicated throughout the region by Tongan initiatives.