BHP Billiton enviros get immersed in the marine world
BHP Billiton employees Silver Naumoska and Lexie Frankham processing the ARMS. Image: Gary Cranitch
18 May 2010
BHP Billiton employees Lexie Frankham and Silver Naumoska have been made honorary research assistants on the CReefs project this week.
Both came to Ningaloo Reef as part of the BHP Billiton Employee Engagement Program, which sends two 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.
On dry land, Lexie is an Environmental Advisor for BHP Billiton's Newcastle Properties Group in NSW and Silver is a Senior Environmental Advisor at the Worsley Aluminum Refinery near Collie in WA – but on the Ningaloo expedition, they're in the water every day.
Their project while at Ningaloo is to observe divers retrieve the Automated Reef Monitoring Structures (ARMS) from the ocean floor and process the material collected. They have also had the opportunity to visit several snorkel sites on the reef.
Each of the ARMS is a set of stacked PVC plates that provide a habitat for marine life. The CReefs team will retrieve nine ARMS that were installed on the previous CReefs Ningaloo trip in May 2009 and analyse all the creatures that have set up home in the structures over the past year.
Lexie and Silver have established a processing station to dismantle the structures, label and photograph the plates, remove the organisms from the plates, filter the material to separate organisms by size, and then preserve the samples in ethanol.
Australian Institute of Marine Science employee Greg Coleman retrieving the ARMS. Image: Gary Cranitch.
"On the first structure, we found lots of worms, a bit of weed, shrimp-type creatures, different shells, and a small fish. I'm looking forward to seeing what the next ARMS have on them," Lexie said.
"I'm learning a lot. This experience is very different from roles I've worked on but I've always been interested in coastal and coral reef processes and management. It's great to get out on the water and have a look. Being around scientific experts, learning about what they have found and what they hope to achieve is fascinating," she said.
Silver agrees. "I've always loved the ocean, and I love seeing new things on the reef. This is a great chance to learn about the latest marine research. It's important to find out what other groups in the science world are doing," she said.
Lexie and Silver are at the Ningaloo site from 16 to 22 May.