The Australian resources company, BHP Billiton, has a growing pool of marine science knowledge and appreciation in its ranks, thanks to a successful employee engagement program in the Australian node of the international CReefs project.
BHP Billiton is a partner in the four-year $3.4 million project, along with the Great Barrier Reef Foundation and AIMS. CReefs is the coral reef component of the Census of Marine Life, a decade long global scientific initiative to assess and explain the diversity, distribution and abundance of marine life.
AIMS leads a consortium of scientists from the Australian Museum, the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Museum Victoria, the Queensland Museum, the South Australian Museum and the Western Australian Museum, the University of Adelaide, Murdoch University, the South Australian Herbarium and the Smithsonian Institution.
On the eve of the next CReefs exploratory expedition, BHP Billiton's Townsville-based superintendent of health, safety, environment and community for the Cannington mine, Mr Mark Daniell, reflected on his recent trip to Lizard Island in the northern reaches of the Great Barrier Reef, accompanying the CReefs scientists.
Providing a global context for his work at BHP Billiton is a big plus, he said. "It made me more aware of the potential downstream impacts and influences that need to be considered by any resources company," Mr Daniell said. "I think it aligns well with our global charter on the environment and sustainability," he said.
Mr Daniell had the rare opportunity for a resources industry professional of helping CReefs scientists collect animals and plants from the reefs around Lizard Island and generally pitching in to help.
He was directly involved in collecting the innovative Autonomous Reef Monitoring Structures (ARMS) that had been placed there on the first CReefs trip to Lizard last year and within which a huge variety of reef creatures had since taken up residence.
"It was a wonderful trip, not only because it involved meeting interesting people in a lovely place but also because it gave me an insight into some of the detail of the CReefs project and a renewed appreciation of the potential power of multi-disciplinary teams," he said.
As part of his work at Cannington, 700km west of Townsville, Mr Daniell has become involved with several marine-based environmental groups and stewardship programs. He is also a keen snorkeller, so when the opportunity to join CReefs was made available, he put his hand up.
Since participating in CReefs, he has come to fully appreciate why BHP Billiton chose to sponsor the program as it fits with the company's stated aim of actively enhancing its contribution to biodiversity protection.
The leader of the Australian node of the CReefs project, AIMS scientist Dr Julian Caley, has been delighted with the success of the BHP employee engagement program. "It's great to have the BHP people along, getting real hands-on experience. It is a unique opportunity that gives them insights into marine science," he said.
Several BHP Billiton employees will be joining the next CReefs trip, this time for a return visit to Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia, which gets under way on Wednesday 13 May and runs for three weeks. A blog from a journalist accompanying the CReefs expedition will operate at http://www.aims.gov.au/creefs/latest-field-trip.html , where blogs from previous expeditions may also be found.
For further information, please contact:
Mr Mark Daniell,BHP Billiton Cannington
Phone: 07 4722 5837
Dr Julian Caley, AIMS
Phone: 0439 472 148
Ms Judy Stewart, Great Barrier Reef Foundation
Phone: 0418 781 787
Wendy Ellery , AIMS Media Liaison
Phone: 4753 4409; 0418 729 265
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