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The School for Field Studies Center for Rainforest Studies Receives Cassowary Award for Education for Work in Australia’s Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, Queensland

The SFS Center for Rainforest Studies is Recognized for Outstanding Dedication to Conservation and Preservation of the Wet Tropics of Queensland World Heritage Area


Salem, MA, USA – November 7, 2011 – The School for Field Studies (SFS) announced today that The SFS Center for Rainforest Studies in North Queensland, Australia, received a 2011 Cassowary Award for Education from the Wet Tropics Management Authority (WTMA). The Cassowary Awards recognize outstanding services and dedication to conservation and preservation of the World Heritage listed Rainforests of the Wet Tropics of Queensland. The SFS Center for Rainforest Studies has operated in the heart of the Wet Tropics, on the Atherton Tablelands, since 1987.

Moni Carlisle, director of the Center, accepted the Cassowary Award at the Flecker Botanic Gardens Interpretive Centre in Cairns, Australia, on Saturday, November 5.

The WTMA established the Cassowary Awards in 1999 to recognize individuals and groups who have made outstanding contributions towards the conservation and presentation of the Wet Tropics of Queensland World Heritage Area. The Wet Tropics, an area that makes up just 0.26% of the continent, holds Australia’s greatest diversity of animals and plants species – many of are found nowhere else in the world. In 1988, the Wet Tropic rainforests were nominated and listed as a World Heritage protected region for their evolutionary evidence as the oldest rainforests on earth.

“It is wonderful to receive such prestigious recognition for our role in education in the Wet Tropics and to be recognized by our research community as a vital partner for conservation,” said Carlisle. “It is also gratifying to see how young people are increasingly becoming engaged in rainforest restoration and restoration ecology initiatives. That is one reason that we work so hard to build collaborations and research initiatives that engage our students and benefit local communities and the Wet Tropics.”

The innovative education model followed at the Center immerses American college undergraduate students into a field based tropical ecology classroom for conservation and restoration efforts across the world-renowned rainforests. “The most profound learning outcomes for students come through the hands-on engagement in the field with real world environmental problems,” says SFS Dean Robin Sears. “To encounter cassowary poo in restoration plots during field research brings shouts of glee from students, even though it is messy.”

In addition to educating approximately 120 U.S. undergraduates each year in its semester and summer programs, the Center hosts “community nights” to disseminate its research locally. SFS faculty and students frequently conduct research in collaboration with partners including Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), Australia's national science agency; Terrain Natural Resource Management; as well as a the Wet Tropics Management Authority (WTMA).

“The WTMA is a particularly important partner for The SFS Center for Rainforest Studies,” says Carlisle who also serves on the organization’s Board as the Chair of the Community Consultative Committee. “We are in the process of formalizing a long-term monitoring and evaluation project with WTMA’s Southern Tablelands Restoration Initiative.” Additionally, Sigrid Heise-Pavlov, lecturer in natural resource management at the Center, serves on the WTMA Conservation Liaison Committee.

Cassowary award winners come from a range of backgrounds including farmers, scientists, conservationists, artists and tour operators. The diverse award recipients have all made an exceptional effort towards the protection and management of the World Heritage Area. A cassowary is a large, flightless bird in the genus Casuarius native to the tropical forests of northeastern Australia. As one of the Wet tropics most endangered species, it has become a symbol of the vital evolutionary significance of the Wet Tropics for the global community.


About The School for Field Studies: ( For more than 30 years, The School for Field Studies (SFS), the nation's largest environmental study abroad program for college undergraduates, has combined hands-on, multi-disciplinary environmental studies with scientific research to propose sustainable solutions to critical environmental problems. SFS students work with local communities to discover practical ways to manage their natural resources, and in the process undergo a transformational experience that helps them to advance their careers as skilled professionals and to become globally aware citizens.

About The SFS Center for Rainforest Studies: ( One of five Centers run by The School for Field Studies, The SFS Center for Rainforest Studies, known by local Rainforest Yidingi as Warrawee, (“you are welcome here,”) sits on a 153 acre plot of land adjacent to the World Heritage Wet Tropic rainforest near Yungaburra on the Atherton Tablelands. Its programs are focused on tropical rainforest management and restoration, offering students a field laboratory and experimental site as part of their academic program. For more than 20 years, SFS faculty, students, and staff have worked side by side with local community members on the Atherton Tablelands in the study of environmental issues and the restoration and conservation of the highly fragmented Wet Tropics.

As part of larger conservation initiatives in the Wet Tropics, The SFS Center for Rainforest Studies has long been involved in cassowary ecological research and conservation. Most notably, Center staff and students attended The Cassowary Summit held in early September 2009, which brought together indigenous people, conservationists, the tourism industry, scientists, government departments, and the general public in order to highlight the plight of this endangered species as well as other rare endemics known only within the Wet Tropics and fuel conservation efforts across the region.

About the Wet Tropics Management Authority (WTMA): ( Under the World Heritage Convention, WTMA, a statutory authority, must provide for the implementation of Australia's international duty to protect, conserve, present, rehabilitate and transmit to future generations the Wet Tropics of Queensland World Heritage Area. The Authority is responsible to both the Australian and Queensland Governments, and administratively is a unit within the Queensland Government Department of Environment and Resource Management (DERM).The Authority administers the Queensland Government's Wet Tropics legislation and sets policies and procedures which govern activities and land use within the Wet Tropics of Queensland World Heritage Area.


Leslie Granese, The School for Field Studies, 978-304-6963,