Jessica Armstrong

Southeast Asia Instructor

B.Sc. Ecology (first class honours), University of New South Wales, Australia

Being half Thai, Jessica’s personal education about South East Asian culture started as a child, eating communal home cook meals, listening to traditional Thai stories and legends, and celebrating Songkran (Thai New Year) in her Sydney residential home with her brother and parents. She wasn’t aware that she was growing up in a cross cultural environment; placing hands together and bowing as a sign of greeting and respect to others was normal in Thailand, while shaking hands or receiving a light kiss on the cheek from aunties was what she expected in Australia. Over time she realized that each culture was different but was also the same in many ways. Today she prefers to focus at the similarities rather than concentrate on the differences. Working as a Dragons instructor gives Jess the opportunity to combine her passions for environmental conservation, travel and education by guiding and supporting students through new (and sometimes challenging) experiences.

Jessica’s interests and skills set are board, from biodiversity conservation to sustainable agricultural development, eco-tourism to environmental education – She has never shied away from learning something new. Her passion for ecology means that she is interested in the relationships and links between animals (including humans), and their environment. She has extensive biological field survey experience, having worked in most environments from the desert to the sea, trapping/tagging animals, mapping vegetation and building relationships with communities. Jess is especially interested in water, having submitted her thesis on the effect of river regulation and water extraction on the Lachlan River in Australia. Most recently in Mexico, where she has spent the past two years, Jess has been working with the United Nations Development Program to evaluate the Cabo Pulmo National Park marine turtle research program.

Jessica’s professional experience working in the academic, government, non-government and private sectors give her a unique view of how long term, sustainable and realistic environmental conservation practices are established. In 2012 Jess joined the Australian Volunteers for International Development (AVID) program and moved to southern Laos to assist on a large multi-disciplinary agricultural research project for two years. Working with some of the poorest communities in South East Asia, Jessica assisted the Knowledge Sharing component, developing basic computer skills training programs and carrying out extension activities to highlight research outputs for local farmers and government staff to use. She became very interested in the relationship between food security and sustainable livelihoods; helping communities to improve and increase their crop yields (rainfed rice crops and dry season opportunistic crops), enabled families to lift themselves above the poverty line while having positive effects for conservation. This experience living in-country and providing real time support was a fantastic and Jess is always keen to share her experiences with others.

Jess has learnt that the power of education to inspire change is the most effective tool to combating environmental degradation. She enjoys working with students from all ages, backgrounds and cultures and prefers an active learning environment where students ask a lot of questions. She is an optimist and always seeks to listen, learn and share knowledge. No matter what, Jess loves connecting with people and listening to their personal stories. Having travelled to over 30 countries she is always humbled by the generosity and sincerity of the communities she has encountered. She enjoys cooking (and eating), laughing and reading fantasy and nonfiction novels.