Oregon’s Keizertimes featured Julia Huffman ’12, who analyzed the economic challenges faced by Australia’s native inhabitants while pursuing research Down Under about the country’s cane toad invasion.
In a study abroad economics course led by Professor Randy Grant, Huffman did a cost and benefit analysis of the cane toad problem. The poisonous amphibian, introduced to Australia to control insects in sugar fields, has now become a costly invasive species.
And after meeting with some Aborigines, the business administration and economics major gained empathy for their struggles. “I respect them for holding on to their cultural traditions despite the changing times,” she says.
For Aborigines, the idea of a better life has a lot more to do with tradition than material possessions, she says. “Relationships are everything to them … Aborigines do everything for their group or clan.”
The group also tried on some adventures.
“I climbed mountains I never thought I would climb,” Huffman says. “I stood on mountain cliffs and looked across the Outback. I fed stingrays and swam with sharks on the Great Barrier Reef – the reef was magical. I’ve never seen water so blue, coral so colorful, and so many unique fish. We raced back from the reef in the middle of a thunder and lightning storm, I will never forget the bolt of lightning coming down around us as we held on to the boat and were pelted with monsoon rain.”
The overall experience of the trip proved to be a life changer for Huffman.
“Ultimately, this trip helped me think about what I want to do in the future,” Huffman says. “After learning of Aboriginal struggles and the huge environmental issues that Australia faces, I realized that I am meant to help people.”
She hopes to work abroad, perhaps in Australia, after graduation.