In Brazil, the data that James and his fellow volunteers collected has meant that scientists can better understand the response of tropical rainforests to human influence.
“We studied different types of birds, trying to understand their migration patterns, the type of food they consume and how that influences the type of vegetation found in the environment,” explains James. “To learn about this inter-relationship was a real eye opener.”
James grew up in the city of Lagos, Nigeria, and says he’s spent most of his life in urban settings, but has been an avid follower of environmental research. The expedition taught him a lot about the human impact on the environment and what we can all do to curb its effects.
James says he now has a better sense of the link between delicate ecosystems and society at large. Learning sessions delivered during the programme, and discussions with colleagues from different parts of the business, also helped him develop a deeper understanding of Shell's approach to sustainability and how it works to minimise the impact on the environment and communities.
More than this, working with a team of other volunteers meant he had to develop leadership and management skills. James was able to bring these skills back to his day-to-day role at Shell, along with a better understanding for how to collaborate effectively.
Taking the impact back home
For those making use of the volunteer’s research, the impact is invaluable. Dr Ana Paula Giorigi is the lead scientist who works on the Earthwatch programme in Brazil.
“I think it’s really interesting to have people from so many different countries and cultures coming together and working and spending time discussing these subjects. It’s really constructive,” she says.
Volunteers have an impact beyond the site of the expedition, too. Back home they can actively spread awareness of the issues they’ve seen first-hand.
“The programme doesn’t just end here,” Ana adds. “They leave the field with an action plan that they implement in their lives and in their companies. It’s exciting for me. Not just as a scientist but as a person.”
For James, taking that message home has been something he’s actively pursued. He has facilitated the establishment of a network of like-minded people from Shell Nigeria seeking to raise environmental awareness in the country; the local network is part of Project Better World and is currently in the process of drawing up its charter.
“I’ve talked a lot about my experience and it has been really well received,” James says. “We’ve already identified things that our network can contribute to the local environment.”
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