The School of Geography, Planning and Environmental Management was disestablished on 1 January, 2017.

Following a review, the school was merged with the School of Earth Sciences to create the new School of Earth and Environmental Sciences.

The School of Earth and Environmental Sciences website can be found at

Romain Mari is using his Master of Environmental Management (Natural Resource Management) degree and his enthusiasm for sustainable community development to build a little piece of paradise on the coast of Kenya.

Romain moved from his home country of France to study a Bachelor of Marine Biology & Ecology then a Master of Natural Resource Management at UQ.
He enjoyed the inspiring teaching, particularly Associate Professor Bob Beeton’s ‘Environmental Problem Solving’ course, and the opportunities to conduct fieldwork.
“The highlights of my studies were the amazing classes and lecturers, and the field trips,” he said.
“The Rainforest Ecology trip and visits to the Research Stations at Heron Island and Stradbroke Island were very memorable.
“I was able to run my own marine research project in the aquariums at Stradbroke Island which gave me experience for roles in marine research and marine environmental consulting after graduating.”
After completing his Masters, Romain worked around the world in marine and environmental roles, and in community and conservation project management in East Africa.
KilifiA road trip with friends down Africa’s east coast took him through the coastal Kenyan town of Kilifi.
“I fell in love with Kilifi as it is such a beautiful and friendly place with incredible biodiversity,” Romain said.
“I decided to return and establish Distant Relatives Ecolodge and Backpackers with my business partner and fellow UQ graduate, Thomas Atkinson.”
“Distant Relatives is an environmentally and socially conscious accommodation option for travellers, and a part of the local community.
“We’ve used our UQ education in environmental management for me, and community development for Thomas, to build a piece of paradise.”
Distant Relatives Ecolodge & Backpackers opened in December 2012 and in 2013 received the Ecotourism Society of Kenya Bronze rating for demonstrating awareness and commitment to environmental conservation, responsible resource-use and socio-economic investment.
Romain and Thomas’s ‘reduce, reuse and recycle’ philosophy is implemented through filtering grey water for gardens, composting or feeding organic waste to animals, and using the five hundred square meter roof surface to collect rainwater for showers, kitchens and the swimming pool.
They hope to keep improving their sustainability through solar water heating, a solar power system and a biogas plant.
“We are pleased that Distant Relatives has already become a central meeting point for all the backpackers visiting Kenya’s coast, as well as for those with an interest in alternative and more sustainable living practices,” Romain said.
“My time at UQ was a great start to my career in environmental management and the exciting challenge of running an ecotourism business.”
Distant Relatives is now a partner of the Permaculture Research Institute of Kenya and hosts permaculture design courses all year around. They are also certified by Ecotourism Kenya. 
You can find out more about Distant Relatives Ecolodge & Backpackers at, on facebook, or by contacting Romain at

Last updated: Apr 27, 2016