Tristan's life growing up in the outback sparked an interest in wildlife and the natural environment. Wrestling crocs, studying about turtle conservation, Tristan spoke passionately about his love for the environment and the opportunity of a lifetime to help conserve Fiji's marine life and species.
Tristan is number two in a family of four. "My family used to come to Fiji on holidays and so far, this is my third trip here," said the 27-year old. "The wildlife has been part of my life when I was growing up, dealing with snakes and spiders in the backyard." He attended a boarding school in Sydney where he spent the past two years of high school.
With a tactful mind and a determined heart to keep our environment safe, Tristan studied marine science and graduated from the University of Sydney. Thereafter, his journey to experience life outside Australia became his aspiration. "While at university, I was managing a bar full time while studying full time also," he said. "I also ran a pub in London for a while. I've also been to Scotland and helped out studying and monitoring salmon migration. "I helped out in hotels in the Czech Republic and spent a year in Mexico monitoring the Meso-American barrier reef," said the curly-haired blonde.
"I came back to Australia and worked for the department of environment and conservation. "In Western Australia, I studied and worked on turtle conservation. I also spent two years working for the department before moving onto community based management working with communities and the tourism industry on marine conservation. He also coordinated the Ningaloo turtle conservation program and study on the Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia.
In 2007, he joined Blue Ventures as a partner where he met project director Fiji, Howard Foster in March that year. Together, the marine conservationists have spent the past 18 months trying to set up the project in Fiji. Tristan studied the marine ecosystem in Fiji and was amazed at the rich marine biodiversity. "The reef is in a good state and the idea is to make sure it stays that way," he said.
"My role is to help other researchers coordinate the project on marine conservation in Fiji with the help of other staff members. There are many challenges of this profession and a lot of trials. The rewards are what push you forward."
He recently returned from Madagascar with other volunteers of Blue Venture studying the Velondriake reserve and creating the largest community-run protected area. His experiences travelling the world have made him appreciate the environment around him. For Tristan, coming to Fiji to help nurture the environment and to educate locals on how to best preserve their marine resources is something he will always remember.
"I'm very excited about working on the project here in Fiji," Tristan said as he bade us farewell under the towering rain tree next to the meeting house on the chiefly island of Bau.
Original story published on www.fijitimes.com on 26 February 2009.