Preserving the Reef

Preserving the Reef

Queensland & Sydney

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Trip Themes

Sustainability, Biology, Environmental Science, Social Enterprise, Economics, Field Research

Cities Visited

Sydney, Cairns, Brisbane

What will it take to keep the Great Barrier Reef alive?

The Great Barrier Reef is a natural wonder. Just off Australia’s northeast coast, hundreds of miles of coral reefs are home to thousands of species of sea life, many unique to the locale. The reef plays a huge role in protecting and maintaining marine diversity as well as defending shorelines from flooding. As the climate changes and our oceans become warmer, parts of the Great Barrier Reef are dying off at an alarming rate.

On this program we will work to understand the biological systems that impact the reef, and how Australians are employing social impact strategies to tackle some of these issues. By exploring the Great Barrier Reef and meeting with social innovators, we will research the future of our oceans and find innovative ways for businesses and environmentalists to collaborate on this important challenge. How can diverse interests come together to preserve the reef?

Sample Itinerary

Sydney, New South Wales

Our first stop will be in Sydney, a perfect introduction to modern Australia. Here we will get a taste for the country and meet with local Aussies as we begin to think about the unique situation this continent and country are facing. We will explore the city by foot, ferry and train, even climbing up the Sydney Harbor Bridge for an amazing view of the city skyline and harbor. We’ll also take a cliffside walk to Bondi Beach - a cultural hub for restaurants, cafes, musical performances, and of course, a breath-taking waterfront. 

Cairns, Tropical North Queensland

We’ll then head north to the beach town of Cairns, our jumping off point for the Great Barrier Reef. In Cairns we will try to understand the connections between the Great Barrier Reef and the local economy, which will serve as the basis for our research into reef preservation. We’ll have the opportunity to go snorkeling with professional guides to see the reef’s ecosystem first-hand. Then we’ll take a trip on the Skyrail for a behind-the-scene look into ecotourism and an expedition into the rain forest. We’ll also spend a day exploring the city to further immerse ourselves in Australian culture. 

Brisbane, Queensland

In Queensland, we will set up camp in a local co-working space to flesh out ideas and brainstorm projects based on everything that we learned from Sydney and Cairns. Using design thinking and notes from our experiences and research, we will collaborate to create a project for reef preservation. We will also take some time to explore the amazing coastline of Australia and end our trip with a visit to the amazing beach islands just north of the city.


There are many different approaches and lenses we can apply to this trip that will shape the experience to your needs. From a specific project or problem you are considering at your school or organization, we can tailor this itinerary to align with the specific issues and skills you want to explore.

In addition to focusing on conservation and the environment, we can also approach Australia from an urbanization/design perspective and think specifically about inclusive design and economic diversity. Melbourne in particular, as one of the world’s most liveable cities, is a spectacular place to explore future ideas of urban planning.

While we think Australia is an incredible destination for high school students, groups of all ages can have a meaningful experience confronting questions about sustainability in some of our other favorite destinations too, such as Iceland, Greece, Hawaii, or Uruguay.