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Fiji Time: 6:38 PM on Wednesday 23 April

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Diamond of the reef

Sailosi Batiratu
Monday, October 14, 2013

SHE'S from Washington, DC in the US and says she's from "a big, blended, modern family".

Juliane Diamond, a program manager with Coral Reef Alliance, an NGO based in San Francisco with projects in Fiji describes her family of nine by saying: "My biological mother was a bookstore manager, my biological father is a tax lawyer, my step mother is a vice president of development at a development firm, and my stepfather is a Presbyterian minister."

Juli says she was born in the US capital and lived just outside of Washington, DC until the age of 11.

"I then moved to Virginia to attend high school. Both locations were very suburban. I attended public school and spent most of my free time riding horses and working part time jobs."

She said she knew as a teenager what she wanted to do.

"When I was 16, my mother and stepfather took me with them on a trip to Africa. From that point on I knew I wanted to do international work, particularly related to the environment.

"When I was 8 I started riding horses, I knew I loved animals and being outside," she said of her early life experiences. "When I turned 13, I followed in my big sister's footsteps and gave up eating meat and fish. I think those aspects of my life encouraged me to live consciously and think about how I wanted to be the change I wished to see in the world.

"But the month in Malawi with my parents is what really put me on the path to dedicating my life to seeing that change happen."

She says her role as program manager with the Coral Reef Alliance (CORAL) aims to "unite communities to save coral reefs. "To do this in Fiji we have been working with the Kubulau community (in Bua) since 2001."

Knowing as a teenager what she wanted to do meant taking the necessary steps to realise it.

"I knew when I went to university that I wanted to work internationally and for the environment. I did everything I could to prepare myself. I interned with the United States National Park Service; I studied abroad; and after graduation I promptly left the country to work in Asia.

"After living in Asia for two years I moved back to Washington, DC to work at environmental NGOs in their headquarters.

"After three years in DC I went back to get my post-graduate degree in International Nature Conservation in New Zealand and spent 2.5 years doing my master's and thesis work in Germany, Cambodia, and Mongolia," she said.

Explaining a little more about her education, she said: "I received a Bachelor's Degree in International Relations and Environmental Science from the University of Miami and a Master's Degree in International Nature Conservation from Lincoln University in New Zealand.

"Once I finished my master's degree, I was ready to jump back into conservation work with CORAL.

Conservation or working with nature was however not always her thing, if it could be put that way.

"Before the age of 16, I wanted to be a make-up artist. I would spend hours doing my friends' make-up and studying cosmetology books, but once we moved to Africa I knew I wanted to do something a bit different.

Juli was in Fiji recently for two weeks to learn more about the work CORAL is doing here.

"The purpose of this trip was for me to meet some of our partners in person and to learn more about our work in Kubulau with the Namena Marine Reserve. Fiji is CORAL's longest running program."

Juli says she has a lovely long-term boyfriend of over five years but "we are both too busy to think about marriage right now".