Name Karen Stone
Position Director
Organization Vava’u Environmental Protection Association

Neiafu, Vava’u

Contact email


VEPA Karen

Tell us a little bit about yourself:

I grew up in England (not a place known for nice ocean waters!) until the age of 20 when I decided to travel, study and see the world. To do this I worked in both conservation and tourism. My passion from a young girl was marine biology and oceans and as I grew older, I was able to create my passion into my life and job. I have lived in Tonga since 2005 after also living in Palau, Indonesia and French Polynesia as well Caribbean. Not always warm places I also lived in Northern Norway working with sperm whales for 6 months (brrr).

The oceans and biodiversity hold a special place in my life but the intricacy of human interaction with these places became very important to me after seeing communities interact and use their resources.

This spurred me to work harder and with deeper insight to how environmental management and livelihoods need to be better supported in projects together.

My other hobbies include photography and cooking (or at least trying to cook) 😊

Why did you become involved with Pacific Ridge to Reef?          

VEPA was asked to assist the project with the biological assessments on coastal and near-shore habitats, species diversity and environmental health of the coastal area

What have been your key contributions?            

Training of teams for conducting rapid assessments, conducting the assessments alongside local researchers and leaders and assisting and supporting the other consultants under the programme

Why is this important? 

VEPA Karen 1

Technical knowledge and ability are only one important area in truly understanding what is happening to the environment and people’s livelihoods. A deeper understanding for me comes with seeing the two areas interact, local researchers bring a wealth of knowledge and input to these surveys as well as a shared passion for collecting data.

What have been your key learnings?     

That we can’t take everything at face value, it’s not always what we see but also what we don’t. The importance of teamwork and collaboration is fundamental to all learnings

How will these experiences help you or provide opportunities for you/your community/your country in the future?               

Broaden sharing of the work and what we learn from them, exploring new ways to communicate better and most importantly seeing other people being able to take these skills to their own work.

What is a key message you would like to share on the importance of Ridge to Reef for people to know?

The R2R programme is one of great importance because it interacts with all the different environments and livelihood activities to provide insights into how to make it better.