BHP Billiton enviro broadens his horizons

Matthew Jones scuba diving.
Image: Gary Cranitch.


6 September 2010
Participating in the CReefs project is a rewarding professional and personal experience, says BHP Billiton employee Matthew Jones.
Matthew, an Environmental Superintendant for a BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance (BMA) coal mine in the Bowen Basin in central Queensland, is visiting Lizard Island as part of the BHP Billiton Employee Engagement Program, which sends employees on each of the CReefs expeditions to gain first-hand experience of marine field work.
BHP Billiton is the major sponsor of the CReefs Australia expeditions.
Matthew has long had an interest in fisheries and oceans management and policy. After working in the fishing industry while still at school, Matthew followed his fisheries passion into a role as a research scientist for the fisheries section of the Northern Territory Department of Resources. His goal in the coming years is to undertake a higher research degree in marine science, and believes his participation in the CReefs expedition is providing valuable insight into this area of research.
"When the opportunity came up to be part of the CReefs project, I leapt at it," Matthew says.
"BHP Billiton wants its employees to be able to broaden their horizons. This trip is a great way for me to learn about what is happening in a field of science outside my immediate areas of expertise – and what a fantastic experience!" he says.
Matthew has participated in a range of research activities on this field trip, including scuba diving at a number of sites, both on reefs around Lizard Island and outer shelf reefs such as Day and Yonge Reefs.
He has dived with the soft coral research team, assisted with collecting samples and with setting out transects: measuring a straight 20-metre line underwater and recording the numbers and species found within half a metre either side of the line, to establish the diversity and abundance of soft corals in different environments.
He has also been spear fishing and line fishing with the parasite research team, and then back at the research station, observing how each fish is dissected and examined for internal parasites in the organs and muscles.
Matthew says learning more about each team's research has been "eye-opening".
"I've spent time with the researchers, discussing what they are looking for, what they've found so far, and other projects that they've been involved in. As an environmental scientist working in an industrial context, I'm particularly interested in how this research can be applied to monitor and improve the health of ecosystems," Matthew explains.
"I want to know, for example, if the fish infected with parasites are in a worse state than those that aren't, and what impact that might have on fisheries. I want to know more about how macroalgae accumulate significant amounts of heavy metals, and how this could be applied for use in industrial clean-up.
"This sort of research could assist industry to more accurately assess, and where possible reduce, impacts on local ecosystems, ultimately ensuring the long-term health of our environment," he says.
Matthew is taking notes to document his participation in the CReefs project, and plans to spread the word about the importance of the research to other BHP Billiton employees when he returns to work.
Matthew is visiting the Lizard Island Research Station from 6 to 12 September.