Bronwyn Larner’s Diary
Tidal Forests of Kenya

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May 15, 2009: Wow, Kenya!

Hello, everyone. My name is Bronwyn Larner, and I am off to Kenya in July, as I was lucky enough to be chosen as an Earthwatch fellow for 2009.

I joined Alcoa in 2006 as a research chemist in the Process Measurement Group of the Technology Delivery Group (TDG), Alcoa’s refining research and development team based at Kwinana near Perth, Australia. Prior to that, I did a Ph.D. in analytical environmental chemistry, investigating trace metal mobilization in contaminated Antarctic sediment after doing an applied science degree, majoring in chemistry.

My current role involves working within a team at TDG, researching better ways to measure the Bayer aluminum refining process and products. As a whole, TDG aims at improving the efficiency, productivity, and product quality of the Alcoa World Alumina (AWA) alumina refineries. TDG also has an environmental program focused on reducing the waste and environmental impacts of the Bayer process.

I was thrilled when I opened my email one morning and received a note from Earthwatch stating I have been chosen as a 2009 Alcoa Earthwatch fellow. I read on, seeing that I had been assigned to an expedition entitled “Tidal Forests of Kenya.” Wow, Kenya! I have travelled to northern and southern Africa, but not to the eastern region.

I navigated my way to the Earthwatch website to find out more. The project will involve carrying out plantation experiments to rehabilitate degraded mangrove stands in Gazi Bay. We will be performing experiments that involve intercropping various mangrove species to see the resulting growth and the effect on the soil and fauna, as well as investigating the carbon cycle in mangrove forests. This will be a fantastic opportunity to learn and contribute to the sustainability of mangroves in Kenya and experience the Kenyan culture and environment while we’re there.

I have always had a keen interest in the environment, which has grown in the last few years as I have become more aware of the challenges the world will face in my lifetime. This is one of the reasons I applied for the Earthwatch fellowship.

Climate change, retreating glaciers, loss of species, deforestation, and decreasing water resources are just some of the issues. Participating in an Earthwatch expedition will be a great way to learn about some of these issues first-hand, and I can pass on what I learn to my friends and family.

Even around the workplace we can make a difference, such as reducing the amount of waste generated, recycling paper, and turning off lights and computers when not in use. If we all do our bit, we can contribute toward one of Alcoa’s corporate goals of reducing the company’s environmental footprint.

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