UBS is a leading global wealth manager and investment banking and securities firm. It is also one of the largest asset managers in the world. With headquarters in Zurich and Basel, Switzerland, UBS operates in over 50 countries and from all major international centres, employing more than 75,000 people worldwide.
UBS has supported Earthwatch's work, specifically in Africa, since 2000. Earthwatch and UBS have set up a joint initiative to encourage UBS employees to get involved in Earthwatch research projects around the world. To encourage employees to take part, the UBS two-day volunteering allowance can be used for this purpose and the firm also makes a donation to Earthwatch for every employee volunteer. The financial contribution also offsets the CO2 emissions from travelling to the research location.
In 2004, UBS agreed a three-year programme supporting Earthwatch’s African Emerging Scientists Programme. This enabled Earthwatch to award four grants per year of up to £5,000 to train young African conservation scientists in project development, field research methods, data management, report writing, leadership and team management skills. This programme also enabled Earthwatch to connect young scientists with experienced lead scientists on Earthwatch projects. By facilitating the transfer of intergenerational skills and knowledge, this programme enabled the next generation of in-country conservationists to take a lead in the future of their country's biodiversity.
Twelve scientists received training under the first three-year programme of support from UBS. Skills, knowledge and experience gained through this programme have since helped these individuals to plan and conduct field research, build partnerships with relevant conservation NGOs, establish working relationships with local communities and lead teams of volunteers on Earthwatch projects. This has ultimately enhanced the scientific value and conservation impact of Earthwatch research initiatives and partner organisations across Africa.
In January 2007, with generous support from UBS, Earthwatch initiated a further three-year capacity development programme in Africa. Under this programme, UBS continued its support to provide training for a further 12 scientists and expanded its support to the African Teacher Programme, funding a total of 18 field placements for South African teachers. The programme engaged African teachers as volunteers in practical scientific research and professionally-facilitated group discussion sessions to develop relevant teaching materials for use at the end of the project. The programme was designed to:
- Build the capacity of African teachers to deliver science and sustainable development education, by enabling them to take back to the classroom the knowledge they gained on the project and enthuse their students about conservation; and
- Enhance the curricula of participating schools by encouraging the teachers to create lesson plans and other classroom activities based on Earthwatch research.
The training sessions were linked to the new life sciences curriculum of the Further Education and Training (FET) band that is being phased in from 2009 across South Africa.