The success of the Earthwatch Millennium Award scheme was today announced with the 435 winners generating 17½ years of conservation man hours and instigating the planting of 42,108 trees, the conducting of 1,757 wildlife surveys and the creation of 600 bird, bat and wildlife homes/boxes.
The Millennium Commission and Royal & SunAlliance funded the £1.5m three year programme, which was aimed at the over 50's. Each winner took part on a field research project where they worked alongside experienced Earthwatch scientists in some of the most breathtaking parts of the world.
With the theme being 'Think Global, Act Local', the winners were encouraged to put their new skills and experiences into practise through a Community Action Plan when they returned home. The aim was to design a project that benefited and enhanced local conservation efforts.
Betty Lee, a Retired Industrial Researcher, from Flintshire, joined Dr. Peter Best on the Dolphins of South Africa project as part of her award. With the guidance of Dr. Best she studied the behaviour and movements of the little coastal Heaviside's dolphin. The results collected by volunteers, like Betty, will be used to help determine if the fishing industry is threatening the dolphins' survival.
The project inspired her, and later on three others, David Tomlinson, Tony King, and Jane Walsh (a professional ecologist for otter and water vole consultations) to pursue an interest in linking wildlife & habitats and they set up a project that assessed the benefits of managing riverside habitats in a more environmentally friendly way.
Betty said, 'The aim of our project has been to improve rivers as wildlife corridors and not only improved conditions for local wildlife but also help landowners by providing a buffer against flooding, reducing erosion and preventing seepage into the river system from run-off.'
'As a result of the project we have been involved in surveying rivers for otters, water voles and potential for improvement, drawing up action plans, organising funding activities, building otter holts and log piles, constructing and erecting bird and bat boxes and planting trees, especially black poplar and hope all of this will have a positive impact on the local community.'
Sarah Staunton-Lamb, Programme Manager at Earthwatch added, 'The Earthwatch mission is to engage people in creating a sustainable environment and these awards have certainly done that. Without the award winner's determination, hard work and enthusiasm it would have been impossible to carry out over £1/2 million* of conservation work on a local and global level.'
Steve Denford, Head of Awards at the Millennium Commission, said, 'I am delighted that we have been able to support the Earthwatch Millennium Awards and to see such impressive results is amazing. The Earthwatch Millennium Awards are an excellent example of how Lottery money has helped people to make a difference where it matters most, in their local community.'
To find out more about the Earthwatch experience why not come along to our Open Day on Saturday 20th March at Oxford Brookes University and see how you can become directly involved in helping to conserve the environment by volunteering on one of our projects. No qualifications or experience are necessary - we will teach you everything you need to know.
* With the minimum (adult) rate for workers aged 22 and over being £4.50 per hour from 1 October 2003, the 148,622 man hours generated by Earthwatch Millennium award winners is equal to £668,979 in hourly wages (www.dti.gov.uk)