part of the solution
alcoa volunteers contribute to a more sustainable future
Fifteen Alcoa employees, including four from Australia, will be helping unlock solutions to some of the biggest sustainability challenges of our time, after being awarded Earthwatch Fellowships by the Alcoa Foundation.
Alcoa Earthwatch Fellowships offer the chance to work alongside leading scientists and researchers from the Earthwatch Institute. Founded in 1971, Earthwatch’s mission is to engage people worldwide in scientific field research and to promote the understanding and action necessary for a sustainable environment.
Paul Smelter from our Point Henry operations, Will Roche and Bronwyn Larner from Kwinana, along with Vicky Tang from Alcoa Australia Rolled Products in Yennora NSW, are joining 11 other Alcoans from around the world (countries including Brazil, China, and the USA) looking at issues including climate change and global water supply.
Each employee will spend up to two weeks, in different parts of the world, working alongside Earthwatch scientists on research projects that include:
- understanding the impact of climate change on mammals in Nova Scotia;
- remediating mangrove ecosystems in the tidal forests of Kenya; and
- restoring vital waterways damaged by acid rain in the mountain waters of the Czech Republic.
Since 2003, Alcoa’s partnership with Earthwatch has resulted in more than 82 Alcoa volunteer Fellows directly contributing to critical scientific research projects and gaining a first-hand insight into how their individual actions impact the global environment.
Last year alone, Alcoa Earthwatch Fellows helped collect over 1,100 hours of critical scientific data – from analysing climate change impact on Australian rainforests to quantifying tourism impact on Belize coral reefs.
Kwinana employees Bronwyn Larner and Will Roche are both keen environmentalists.
Bronwyn will be helping to restore important mangrove ecosystems in Kenya over 11 days during July and August.
She will live and work with local villagers to help conduct pioneering plantation experiments to rehabilitate degraded mangroves in Gazi Bay. She will also help monitor the effects of these plantations on rates of beach erosion and on the animals, particularly crabs and fish, dependent on them.
The results will benefit the local fishing community, which relies on mangrove forests for wood products and fish habitat. In doing so, Bronwyn will be contributing to global efforts to restore dwindling mangrove forests and combat the effects of rising sea levels, as well as provide the first ever data on the use of mangrove forests as carbon sinks.
“I have an interest in the environment, so I thought this was a pretty good way to extend my knowledge and awareness,” Bronwyn said.
Will Roche will be continuing the work done last year by fellow Alcoan and Earthwatch adventurer Charlie Soord in the Jizera Mountains of the Czech Republic, helping to restore the vital links of ecosystems damaged by acid rain.
He will collect water samples and take temperature, pH, conductivity, and oxygen readings from more than 30 streams and reservoirs and help catch and examine reintroduced fish and sample other aquatic organisms.
He’ll also evaluate tree vitality, collect soil and vegetation samples, study erosion and plant succession, and be trained to test samples and record data in the lab.
“Earthwatch is a prestigious organisation, and is recognised worldwide. It is a great honour to be chosen for this fellowship. It complements my other environmental activities within Alcoa, from tree planting weekends to Make an Impact,” Will said.
When Reliability Technician Paul Smelter, from Point Henry, was first told he of his successful Earthwatch application, he thought it was a joke.
“I’m still pinching myself,” said the Alcoa employee of 19 years, “it’s given me a new lease on life.”
At the end of June, Paul is bound for Canada where he will be tracking mammals in Nova Scotia for two weeks.
“I hope to learn more about how to help the environment and hope that what I do over there can make a difference,” he said.
“I’m looking forward to seeing the creatures and what their habitats are like and how we can help the local community,” he said, “I’d like to help towards sustainability and the climate so it doesn’t get any worse.”
Alcoa Foundation President Meg McDonald said the Earthwatch Fellowships Program, one of a suite of employee volunteer programs supported by the company, not only provided Alcoa the opportunity for employees to personally contribute to future global sustainability, but encouraged them to share their learnings in the communities in which they work and live.
“Through the Alcoa Volunteers program, which in addition to Earthwatch, includes the initiatives Make an Impact and Ten Million Trees, employees are encouraged to make a positive environmental difference, around the corner and around the world,” said Ms McDonald.
“Alcoa’s 2009 Earthwatch fellows will work on projects linked to global issues that are of great importance to Alcoa: climate change, global water supply, and sustainability.
“In addition to contributing to the knowledge needed to confront these global challenges, this hands-on support for scientific field work provides employees a rich understanding of how individual daily behaviours, both at work and at home, can contribute to a more sustainable future.”
You can follow Paul’s journey by visiting www.earthwatch.org/exped/buesching.html
Read more about Alcoa and climate change.
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