“If we don’t take drastic action, we will end up being the only living species on this planet,” Dr. Jose’ Herrera, the Minister for the Environment, Sustainable Development and Climate Change said at the Operation Wallacea Award ceremony on Monday.
Operation Wallacea Malta, the Ministry for Education and the Ministry for the Environment hosted a joint ceremony at the Esplora Interactive Science Centre, for the volunteers participating in the various international OpWall Wildlife Conservation Research Expeditions. The main focus of these expeditions is to conduct studies on biodiversity and climate action, two of the various arising environmental concerns.
The ceremony began with a welcome speech by Prof. Deidun, Ocean Ambassador for Malta for the UN. He started off by saying how in this day and age biodiversity is under constant effect, as humankind have a huge demand for resources and raw materials, however very often biodiversity and its habitats come in the way. Therefore, “the world really needs young people like you.” He went on to say, “I strongly believe that Operation Wallacea ticks all the right boxes – hands on studies; bringing academia and research together, and youth empowerment.”
The opening address was then given by Dr. Jose’ Herrera. He began by saying how he was “impressed with the success of this Operation Wallacea project. This is a very good thing, because this project is vital in the circumstances and realities we live in today.” The protection of our biodiversity, has been taken for granted for too long, so much so that we’ve lost a staggering percentage of our biodiversity already. If we don’t take drastic action, we will end up being the only living species on this planet.” The positive aspect of all this is that today, humankind is becoming increasingly more aware of these pressing issues, and is trying to take drastic action to protect our biodiversity.
Nathan Adams, the manager of the Maltese and New York Operation Wallacea Offices then spoke about how his journey with Operation Wallacea began, and how it then led him to become a researcher. Adams said that “Malta has the highest percentage of students and teachers attending Operation Wallacea, when compared to the population of the country” – this goes to show how enthusiastic and hard working our Maltese youths are.
The Yuppie caught up with Nathan Adams after the ceremony. He told us that “It truly is a privilege to host over 150 young Maltese aspiring scientists on our Operation Wallacea wildlife conservation research expeditions to biodiversity hotspots worldwide! I am proud of all the students acting as ambassadors for Malta across the planet and look forward to watching them grow and hearing about their Operation Wallacea adventures upon their return!”
Ms Loraine DeBrincat, a Sir M.A. Refalo Sixth Form teacher, gave a speech about her “life changing” Croatia and South Africa experiences, She emphasised how although it might cost a fair amount of money, this amazing experience can never be bought.
Ms Elaine Bajada, a teacher at san Andrea school then spoke about her Romania experience. “Programs such as this should be made available to all students. All teenagers should have access to learning from a mentor. Unfortunately not everyone has the financial means to access such programs.” It is about time subsidies and funding were made available to those keen students, as “it is programs like this that make it possible to instill a love for learning in our young.”
Arnold Scibberas, the Head of the Malta Herpetological Society, will be leading a group expedition to Indonesia later this year. His first words were, “You are so lucky. Our generation never dreamed of having these experiences.”
The head of Anatomy, Prof. Jean Calleja Agius was also present at the ceremony, to give her support to the medical students who will be going on a month long expedition to the Honduras in summer. The Yuppie spoke to Prof. Calleja Agius about Operation Wallacea. “It is a unique opportunity that this year for the first time Maltese medical students can benefit from this expedition which is specifically designed for medical students. 5 students will be going to the Honduras on this medical expedition. We hope this will be the start of a new collaboration where medical students are not just able to practice on the wards in an institution but even out of their comfort zone.”
Catriona Cutajar, one of the medical students who will be going on the medical expedition with Operation Wallacea spoke to us and said, “I am feeling so lucky that I even have this opportunity, I’m looking forward to the trip to learn more about wildlife conservation and get PADI qualified!”
David Chetcuti Dimech, a law student who will be spending a month in South Africa, on his third Operation Wallacea experience, said “No words can capture and describe the wealth of an experience an OpWall expedition provides.”
Finally, the Yuppie spoke to Ms. Rita Gatt, “As a teacher I had the opportunity to participate in three expeditions. They were all extremely rewarding in their own ways. In my personal opinion, Operation Wallacea is a holistic experience which definitely goes beyond research and scientific knowledge. Operation Wallacea is a way of life! – an opportunity for students and their accompanying teachers to go out of their comfort zones. For many it becomes a moment of more self awareness …. the genuine contact with nature in reality can present the right opportunity to get in touch with oneself! Observing students become so involved and engaged in the research conducted is of utmost satisfaction!”
As an Operation Wallacea volunteer myself, having travelled to Romania and Croatia, I wish the best of luck to all fellow students participating in expeditions this year! I also encourage those who seem a little skeptical to get out of their comfort zone and go for it! These life changing experiences will not come again!
I feel that I can properly express myself through my writing, and that it's a great way to make myself heard, so that I too can someday make a difference in this complicated world.
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