International vision for environmental education drives SEES student to success

26 April 2017

A University of Queensland environmental management student believes one of the best ways to promote environmental values is to demystify the idea that environmental responsibility and economic profitability are opposing concepts.

And to prove the point, she is putting what she is learning into practice to improve the health of Peruvian children and help them protect their fragile environment.

Honours student in the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences Manuela Benavides, along with her sisters, co-founded a non-government environmental education agency in Peru which has involved more than 400 Peruvian coastal children in environmental projects since 2011. 

“The project was delivered this summer delivered through a collaboration between ConCiencia, which is an environmental education NGO that my sisters, other nature lovers and I founded six years ago, and an international organisation called Waves for Development,” she said. 

“ConCiencia started as an environmental education summer camp for small fishing communities in northern Peru, where dependence on natural resources is high, but the understanding of the underlying process of interdependence between people and the environment may be the lowest,” she said.

“The organisation creates innovative experiences incorporating outdoor lessons and student-driven learning projects

“This collaboration provides environmental education experiences and curricula specific to each location and the local conservation issues they face.”

Last summer a small team of ConCiencia members (including three UQ alumni) drove to Lobitos, in northern Peru to work with Waves and carry out short workshops focusing on themes such as waste, place and maps, and learning about local marine species.

“We teamed up with a Moana, a video producer, to do a participatory video workshop where the children developed a storyline and animated a video based on local myths,” she said.  Watch the result here.

Manuela said her work with ConCiencia had inspired her to change her study path from communications and marketing in Peru to environmental studies in Australia.

“I chose Australia and found UQ and its environmental management program, due to UQ’s excellent international rankings,” she said.

(The University of Queensland is the top university in Australia for environmental sciences, and agriculture, in the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2017.)

Manuela likes UQ’s environmental management program because of its hands-on, practical approach which has provided her with many tools to promote change in the real world, and for business and industry.

“My field of study allows me to make real, tangible change, and promote environmental values within the economic system.”

Manuela is currently completing her honours thesis on sustainable waste management in developing countries.

She hopes to continue work in waste management and recycling, reducing the inefficiency in the use of resource and the health and environmental issues caused by inappropriate waste disposal.

“I hope to learn as much as I can from the waste management systems of Australia to apply these to Peru and other developing countries where waste management is a massive problem and a health and environmental hazard,” she said.

Her advice to future students?

“UQ has been such a welcoming place with amazing studying and working opportunities. 

“UQ provides you with all of the tools and support you need and encourages you to be a High Distinction student. Believe in yourself and make the most of the amazing resource that UQ offers.“

CC workshop 6: Waves for Development Lobitos
CC workshops 7: Adriana Roe
CC workshops 8: Adriana Roe

Learn more about the Environmental Management program at UQ.

To find out more about ConCiencia, visit: or watch