Melusine Martin

Melusine Martin has a deep understanding of place and how what you see can affect you. She had been to Far North Queensland about a decade before returning to Cairns in February 2017 as a PhD student.Portrait of Melusine Martin

“When I arrived in Cairns, I was awestruck,” she says. “I fell in love with the place. I don’t why and how — I didn’t know you could fall in love with a place. When I came here, I had a gut feeling that it was the place I was supposed to be.”

Melusine is a PhD student under a Cotutelle agreement between James Cook University and the Paris-Sorbonne University. She started her PhD in April 2015 while in France and will finish her thesis while in Australia. Her research is around the idea of nature in the digital age. With the Great Barrier Reef on one side and rainforest on the other, Cairns is proving to be the ideal location for Melusine to experience the natural wonders of Far North Queensland.

“I love the soul of the place,” she says. “Even in the city centre, it’s so beautiful. When you walk on the esplanade, you’re right next to the sea but you’re still in the city. If this is what being in a city is like, then I like cities.”

Melusine is a PhD student at The Cairns Institute, which is committed to understanding and informing critical processes of social and environmental transformation. The Cairns Institute is based at JCU’s Smithfield campus, in Cairns, and brings together the expertise and intellectual resources of more than 20 disciplines in the Humanities and Social Sciences.

“From the moment I arrived here, everything JCU has provided is so amazing,” she says. “This includes the workshops, the opportunities for conferences at The Cairns Institute and all the people who are helping me. There are plenty of small details that make the experience very rich. I’m having the time of my life.”

Melusine’s thesis, Nature perceptions in the digital age and millennials’ feeling of connectedness to their environment in Australia and in the United States in the 21st century, will explore how digital technology is affecting people’s view of nature.

“One of the hypotheses of the research is that when you spend all day facing a screen, whether that’s a computer or a tablet, you will have some trouble connecting to nature,” she says. “There is this term called the nature deficit disorder. This is really a disease for western societies because we spend too much time inside, we spend too much time not in the sun or not breathing fresh air, which is not natural and not normal.”

Melusine says reconnecting to nature can be as simple as stepping away from the screen and going outside. Spending time in your backyard, going to the beach or hiking in the mountains are all activities that can reconnect you to nature.

“The starting point would be for people to recognise that they don’t spend enough time connecting with nature,” she says. “Close your computer, forget your phone at home and take time to connect to nature.”