Australian Centre for Pacific Islands Research - University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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Australian Centre for Pacific Islands Research

Pacific Island landscape image

Focused on the Pacific

The Australian Centre for Pacific Islands Research (ACPIR) is a multidisciplinary research centre that provides a focal point for the expertise and experience of researchers connected through their capacity to make a significant contribution to knowledge and impact in the areas of primary production, community health and the environment in the Pacific Islands region.

The Pacific Ocean covers a third of the surface of the planet and contains thousands of islands, most settled by people long before their discovery by Europeans. An almost unmatched diversity of cultures across a diversity of island types has created unique challenges that our Centre seeks to address.

Living mostly in rural coastal communities, the livelihoods of Pacific peoples are increasingly threatened by climate change and natural disasters. While acknowledging the deep-rooted cultural resilience of Pacific communities, future challenges are unprecedented and are in many places amplified by health concerns arising from recently changed diets and livelihoods. The Australian Centre for Pacific Islands Research (ACPIR) is concerned with developing practical evidence-based solutions in collaboration with Pacific peoples to address such concerns, and develop sustainable pathways for the futures to which they aspire.


The Pacific Islands

Research areas

Aquaculture and Agriculture

Sustainable production systems

Most Pacific Islanders source their livelihoods from the land or sea. Agriculture and aquaculture production are essential to economic development, sustainability and livelihoods.

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Pacific Islands village

Environmental sustainability

Sustaining the viability of island environments is about survival. The ability of Pacific Islanders to sustain livelihoods has been repeatedly challenged by extreme events and longer-term impacts of climate change.

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Village house

Peoples and cultures

Understanding Pacific peoples and cultures enriches us all. In an era where globalisation is forcing ever greater cultural homogeneity, the importance of understanding diversity and its roots in history and circumstance is clear. 

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Pacific Islands fruit

Nutrition and health

Food environments in the Pacific have changed dramatically in recent times. Understanding food environments and dietary behaviours in the Pacific Islands informs strategies to improve health in those communities.

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Core researchers

Steven Underhill

Steven, ACPIR director, has over 30 years research experience in subtropical and tropical postharvest horticulture food systems specialising in food loss and Pacific horticulture.

A geologist and geographer by training, Patrick’s current research focuses on both climate change and the ways it challenges Pacific people’s livelihoods and on the production and conservation of cultural heritage.

Professor Paul Southgate

Paul is a specialist in the field of tropical aquaculture, with particular expertise in the biology and culture of pearl oysters and other molluscs, marine invertebrates and marine ornamental species.

Libby Swanpepoel

Libby is a lecturer in Nutrition and Dietetics whose research sees her working across food systems for global development. Libby currently has projects in Kiribati, Samoa and Solomon Islands.

Sarah Burkhart

Sarah specialises in nutrition education and food provision in Pacific Island school settings and understanding determinants of food and nutrition security across Pacific Island food systems, with a focus on food environments and consumer behaviour/food choice.

Lex Thomson

Lex is an agribusiness and agro forestry researcher with expertise in sustainable management, production and marketing, and research and development of forest and non-wood forest products.

Yuchan Zhou

As a plant scientist, Yuchan’s special interest is the genetic and environmental control of plant development. She is currently researching wind-resistant tree crops to support the Pacific fruit industry.

Contact us


For more information and to meet the ACPIR team, please visit our contact page for details

To contact key members directly, visit their page by clicking on their profile.