Alcoa Employees Conduct Climate Change Research with Earthwatch in the Arctic

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Alcoa Foundation selected eight Alcoa employees to participate in a unique professional development opportunity with Earthwatch Institute, a non-profit organization dedicated to connecting citizens with scientists to conduct conservation research worldwide.

Alcoa employee collecting climate change-related data on Earthwatch's Canada-based project.

An Alcoa employee collects climate change-related data on Earthwatch's Canada-based research project as part of a unique professional development program.

Alcoa Foundation’s unique partnership with Earthwatch allows our employees the chance to assist scientists with real-life climate change research projects, and return ... with the tools to contribute positively to their respective environments.

Alcoa Foundation selected eight Alcoa employees to participate in a unique professional development opportunity with Earthwatch Institute, a non-profit organization dedicated to connecting citizens with scientists to conduct conservation research worldwide.

The fellows will head to Churchill, Manitoba in Canada – the polar bear capital of the world -- from September 10th to the 16th to collect climate change data alongside leading scientists. Earthwatch has supported this project for nearly 20 years, and it has become a powerful “ground zero” for climate change research – helping scientists refine models and inform policy.

The fellowship experience has two core components: immersive hands-on field research, and sustainable action implemented back in the home office or community.

During their days the team will work with scientists to collect data on snowpack, permafrost, soil, presence of biological components (vascular plans, lichens, and mosses), tadpole metamorphosis, annual growth rings of trees, wetland water quality, and more – all factors that tell part of the complex story of how the changing climate is reshaping an ecosystem. The evidence of climate change in this polar region is clear: polar sea ice is shrinking, glaciers are retreating, winter snowpack is less extensive than it used to be, and the tree line is shifting northward.

“An important part of Alcoa’s commitment to sustainability is providing our employees with the chance to learn about its critical importance on a global scale,” said Rosa Garcia Pineiro, VP, Sustainability and Alcoa Foundation President. “Alcoa Foundation’s unique partnership with Earthwatch allows our employees the chance to assist scientists with real-life climate change research projects, and return to their respective communities with the tools to contribute positively to their respective environments.”

In addition to serving as research assistants, the fellows also participate in facilitated learning sessions to expand their knowledge of how sustainability relates to their community. Upon conclusion of the expedition, the fellows will bring their expedition experiences “home”: they will present on their experience to their Alcoa office, create a sustainability project to implement in their organization or community, and organize and attend a post-fielding volunteering event in partnership with a local organization.

Elias Miranda, a chemical engineer from Brazil, returned from his fellowship in 2016 with an action plan that targeted education and waste within his Alcoa community. Elias trained his colleagues on sustainability and climate change, labeled all waste containers and added Organic Waste containers throughout his Alcoa facility, and worked with his manager to provide reusable mugs for each employee reducing the estimated 62,400 plastic cups used each year within his office.

“Traveling far from their plants and offices to serve as fellows, these inspiring individuals not only contribute to cutting-edge scientific research, but they absorb themselves in sustainability curriculum,” said Scott Kania, CEO, Earthwatch Institute. “The Alcoa fellows learn how to incorporate sustainability into the actions and decisions they take as employees and in their communities.”

Since 2003, 274 Alcoa employees from 24 countries have contributed more than 13,500 hours of research, which Earthwatch uses to inform sustainable solutions.

This year’s fellows include: Amy Schofield (Program Specialist; Booragoon, Australia), Barbara Sándor (Transactional Buyer; Székesfehérvár, Hungary), Hugo Leonardo Rodrigues Cantanhede (EHS Analyst; Sao Luis, Brazil), Jeremie Boivin (Reliability Engineer; Baie-Comeau, Canada), Kira Sorensen (Environmental Scientist; Huntly, Australia), Miltiadis Constantine (Project Manager; Pittsburgh, PA United States), Patrick Lotteau (Treasury Manager; Geneva, Switzerland), and Shelley Ranii (Strategic Planning and Analysis Manager; Pittsburgh, PA United States).

To learn more, visit http://www.alcoa.com/foundation/en/partnerships-programs/earthwatch-fellowship-program.asp. To learn more about the story behind the expedition, visit http://multimedia.earthwatch.org/treesinthetundra.

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