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Asunto:NoticiasdelCeHu 587/03 - Geography at Fiji
Fecha:Jueves, 29 de Mayo, 2003  02:43:57 (-0300)
Autor:Humboldt <humboldt>

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NCeHu 587/03

 The University of the South Pacific
School of Social and Economic Development


Department of Geography


Welcome to the University of the South Pacific's Geography Department web site. This site is designed for potential students, researchers, academics, and those just interested in who we are and what we are up to! Specifically, the site contains:

  • information about our academic programmes and courses;
  • profiles of the departmental staff: their backgrounds, activities, and interests;
  • listings of our research activities; and
  • a range of links to other parts of the University, Geography staff pages, and other geography related sites.

We have tried to build a site that is helpful, informative and easy to use, and one that loads quickly across the net (no large graphics unless you ask for them). We are always making additions and modifications, so please check back in the future. Of course, your comments and suggestions are most welcome.

To see what we have on offer, use the menu options in the frame on the left of your screen to link to various parts of the department web site. We have designed this site in such a way that the sidebar menu is always your main navigation tool to take you to nearly all the selection pages. Pages denoted with [GFX] are heavy with graphics, so you may want to turn off auto picture load before going to these pages.

If you are re-visiting this site, be sure to check out the News section as this is where the most recent  material shows up first. Don't forget to check out the Geography Department's GIS Unit website.

Thank you.

¿Why Geography?

We live in a time of rapid change. It is an exciting and challenging time, and there  is increasing pressure on Pacific Island Countries to develop fast. Decisions we make now about development will dramatically affect our future. Problems such as global warming,  destruction of our reefs and forests, loss of important plants and animals, pollution, increasing poverty, unemployment, devaluation, and nutritional problems, are some of the  well known results of inappropriate development.

To solve these problems, students and  future leaders need to acquire knowledge that will help them contribute to sound development  decision-making and good management practices. This is the goal of the Geography  Department at The University of the South Pacific (USP). We teach our students  skills that can prepare them to promote the right kind of development for the future of the Pacific Islands.

Geography is about understanding the Earth. It examines how places and countries differ, how natural and human environments work, and the connections between places, resources,  people and development. Geography examines why some places develop and are good places  to live, and why other places do not develop, or, in some cases, are worse today than they were in the past. An understanding of geography can help people working in a variety  of occupations make better decisions for developing and managing their country. They can  help the organisations they work for function more effectively and lessen the negative  impacts on the human and natural environments of the Pacific Islands.

This page is designed to explain

  • the subject of geography,
  • why it is important,
  • what types of careers you can expect as a geography graduate,
  • why we think the Geography Department at USP is a great place to study, and,
  • what some of your options are if you want to study geography at USP.

 The information here is an introduction to the Geography Department at USP, and is  designed mainly for people from the Pacific Region who are considering undergraduate studies in geography. Other pages contain more detailed  information about the department, our staff and their research activities. We also  have information for students considering post-graduate work and specialised education in Geographic Information Systems. Contact us if you want more information.

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What Geographers Do

 As geographers, we study the natural and human features of the Earth's surface and  the processes responsible for these features. Geography is perhaps unique in that  it takes a broad view of the Earth and examines the connections between the many  natural and cultural processes that are responsible for different types of places  and types of development.

To do this, geographers must study many things such as how islands, mountains, rivers, and coral reefs are formed or the causes of different climates and how they  affect the Earth and human development. We study the types of plants and animals that  inhabit different environments, why they are important, how we affect them and how they affect us. We  study how human societies have developed and spread, and how they meet their basic needs  for food, shelter, health, energy and recreation. We study how humans adapt to changing environments and how they have affected the Earth's environments. We also study how humans behave under various different environmental and social conditions. Most importantly,  geographers attempt to examine the interactions between all these processes.

Geography students at USP study these issues with specific emphasis on the Pacific Islands.  For example, you will study how climate and sea level have changed, and how new types of agriculture, industrialisation and urbanisation have affected Pacific Island cultures and environments, and how to use this information to identify the most appropriate types of development.

Geographers are inter-disciplinary in their work. For example, economic geographers examine  how geographical location and types of resources affect economic development. This is  especially important to the Pacific Islands, given our unique blend of cultures and climates, the isolation of outer islands and rural areas, and the great distances of  our islands from overseas markets for our products and sources of our imported goods.

You will find that most geographers link their geographic work to other fields of study. Besides economics, geographers work in fields such as Biology, Marine Studies, Anthropology, Politics, Women's Studies, and Computer Science, to name but a few.

Geographers also study the distribution of natural features (such as ocean basins, mineral deposits, forest, rivers and reefs) and cultural features (such as gardens, hospitals, roads,  schools, tourist resorts and government services). Such information is valuable to planners and policy makers who must make decisions on how our islands can best be developed.

To aid planners and monitor management practices, geographers use maps, aerial photographs and satellite images to locate and identify objects and phenomena and to understand spatial  patterns. Geographers must also carry out both library and field research as part of their studies. As a geography student at USP, you will learn field and library research techniques,  how to use aerial photos, maps, and computers, and how to analyse, display and use spatial data, both manually and with computer assistance.

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Where a Geography Degree could lead

 Teaching geography in primary or secondary school is one popular and very important career  option for geography graduates, but it is by no means the only choice. As mentioned earlier,  geographers have a good understanding of the natural and human environments, and the  processes that affect them. Geographers also understand the importance and reasons for the distribution of natural resources and cultural developments and how these affect political,  economic and cultural development.

Graduates with these geographic skills are required by a wide range of both public and private organisations that deal with development issues where the environment, resources and the way people use and affect them are concerned. This is particularly true in the  Pacific Islands where most types of development depend on natural resources and the environment.

Owing to the wide range of inter-disciplinary skills and knowledge that geography graduates  possess, many employers recognise the strength that a good geography graduate can bring to  their organisation.

Naturally, specific opportunities will depend on each person's area of specialisation, and on how well they perform. Some of the more common employment opportunities for geography graduates in the Pacific Islands include:

Government Ministries and Departments

  • Health, Education, Housing, and Social Welfare
  • Natural Resources, Agriculture, Forestry, Fisheries and Environment
  • Tourism/Ecotourism
  • Transportation and Public Works
  • Municipal and Regional Planning and Development
  • Census Bureaus
  • Development Banks
  • National Food and Nutrition Groups
  • Surveying, Mapping and Air Survey
  • Women's Issues

Extra-governmental and Non-government Organisations in the Pacific

  • Pacific Community
  • Forum Secretariat
  • South Pacific Applied Geoscience Commission (SOPAC)
  • South Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP)
  • United Nations (various agencies)
  • Environmental and social non-governmental organisations (NGOs) such as Greenpeace, WWF, FSP, and SPACHEE

 Private Sector

Consulting agencies that work in the areas listed above frequently hire geography  graduates to assist them in the collection, analysis, and reporting of geographic  and environmental data.

Commercial companies in the retail, agricultural, and transportation sectors need  geography graduates to help plan their growth and to monitor the impact of their  current operations.

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The Geography Department at USP

 No matter what subject you study at university, so much of your education depends on the  people around you--the teachers, the support staff, and your classmates. We believe our Geography Department has the right mix of dedicated people to make your education  enjoyable, interesting, and ultimately, very useful and rewarding. Past students have  commented that they found the members of the Geography Department friendly and  knowledgeable, and really appreciated the departmental "open door" policy to students.

We like to think of the Department as "balanced". Each faculty member has a different  specialisation, and this allows our students to study many different aspects of geography. Beyond this specialisation, the members of the Geography Department are committed to working as a team, and cooperate on the development and delivery of the programme. A major departmental initiative has just been launched, targetted on Niue.

Our staff has many years of experience at USP and in the Pacific Islands. New members  have brought with them some of the latest methods and theories from overseas. We are  especially proud of our Pacific Island faculty members. The first regional national to be  appointed full professor and Head of Department was in the Geography Department.

While you will find all our faculty enjoy teaching and interacting with our students,  the Department is also recognised as a strong research department. This means our students experience up-to-date ideas, methods, and discoveries, many specifically  dealing with the South Pacific Region.

Most students enjoy the blend of cultures in our classes. You will probably not find a wider range of students from inside and outside the Pacific Island Countries in any department at USP.

The Department is strongly dedicated to real-world experience for our students. Since  the most effective way to learn about the environment is to see it for yourself, field  trips are a very important part of the quality learning experience in geography. During their studies, geography students take more field trips and see more of Fiji than any  other undergraduate students.

Members of our Department also work hard to maintain strong ties with local and regional groups in the private and public sectors. Such ties allow us to stay in touch with what  is going on in the Region and the world, and keep our course materials relevant and  up-to-date. Links with outside organisations make it possible to have government and  industry personnel speak to students directly about what is going on in their organisations. Strong community contacts also increase awareness of the quality of our programme, which is helpful when graduates seek employment.

The geography teaching staff are supported by a group of friendly and helpful staff, all of whom are eager to help our students. From our full-time departmental secretary  and cartographer through to our technicians, help is freely available to our students.


Postal Address

Geography Department
School of Social and Economic Development
The University of the South Pacific
Suva, Fiji Islands


The University main switchboard is +679 313 900
Direct to Geography Office: +679 212 542
You can call all staff members directly by adding 21 before their extension number.
Fax:+679 301 487

Departmental Contacts
(For more information see Staff Profile Pages)
Email address for all USP staff is familyname_first
Click on any individual's name to send email direct.

Staff Member





Dr. Patrick Nunn

Oceanic Geoscience &
Department Head




Dr. Randy Thaman

Pacific Islands Biogeography




Dr. Imam Ali

Senior Lecturer




Dr. Michael Govorov

Senior Lecturer
Director of GIS Unit




Dr. James Terry

Senior Lecturer




Mr. Lionel Gibson





Dr. Eberhard Weber





Ms Aliti Vunisea

Assistant Lecturer




Mr. Conway Pene





Ms Sharon McGowan

Departmental Secretary