Home » Case Studies » A Step Back in Time: PhD Intern Improves Tourist Spot’s History


An iconic Australian tourist spot has utilised PhD-level applied research to leverage its rich history.

Award-winning and heritage-listed, Paronella Park is steeped in the legacy of Queensland’s former cane fields. To improve communication of its history to visitors, the Park’s owners brought on the research expertise of Bianka Vidonja Balanzategui – a PhD student at James Cook University specialised in local history and the sugarcane industry.

Through a 5-month internship facilitated by APR.Intern, Bianka applied research and writing skills to analyse material from the Park’s archives and develop bespoke manuals for interpretative signage, audio script and museum interpretative signage and display. Bianka also produced an improved audio guide. Bianka’s research set the groundwork for a smartphone app that would enable digital projection of the past on to present built structures, for holographic displays, and for mounting an improved museum display.

Mark Evans, custodian of the park and Bianka’s industry supervisor, believes the project delivered far more than anticipated. In particular, improving their knowledge of the Park’s history.

“The opportunity to improve communication with Paronella Park guests will certainly give us a positive return on investment. I can’t thank Bianka enough for her research and dedication that accelerated this project,”


Mark Evans, Paronella Park Owner & Director

Bianka also applied historical interpretation skills to create new curriculum-based worksheets for school group guests. Working closely with Japanese staff, language tasks were developed with a focus on improving communication of the Park’s history with Japanese school groups – a large visitor market.

“I was able to apply my research and writing skills directly to a business environment, which was a hugely rewarding experience,”


Bianka Vidonja Balanzategui, former PhD Intern at Paronella Park

This internship was supported by the Australian Government Department of Education, through the ‘Supporting more women in STEM careers: Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute (AMSI) – National Research Internship Program’.