Changing Lives, Protecting the Planet

By Andrew Greenspan, Earthwatch Corporate Fellow

When I was a little boy, my mother would take me on regular trips to see the life-like dioramas of the African Hall of Mammals at the Museum of Natural History in New York City. I would compare these animal scenes to the real-life versions I saw during trips to the Bronx Zoo. But I always dreamed of one day seeing lions and leopards in their natural habitat, and so I took myself on two adventures to Africa, to see the natural wonder of the Serengeti and Okavango Delta with my own eyes.

“But it was through my experience with Earthwatch that I gained exposure to an entirely different side of my interest in the natural environment that I had not previously explored: how to protect these iconic animals and their habitats through citizen science.”

Volunteers test carbon content at freshwater ponds in the Mai Po Nature Reserve.

Volunteers test carbon content at freshwater ponds in the Mai Po Nature Reserve.

I am an Earthwatch fellow in two capacities. I first attended a one-day course on global water quality and scarcity issues impacting the planet, brought hyper local with training in data gathering for testing of the water quality right here in the Hudson River on the west side of Manhattan. More recently, I was in Hong Kong for a week-long program designed to train leaders in sustainability knowledge and practice, with the objective of returning to my day job with a pledge to positively impact the sustainability of my company with a project of my own.

Connecting citizens with scientists is a fantastic premise that Earthwatch manages to make incredibly effective in practice. You can see first-hand, with minimal time commitment, the direct connection between the field work you perform and how it informs the science and furthers the dialogue about the challenges the planet is facing.

The team walks along a wooden footbridge through the mangrove forest to the mudflats at Mai Po Nature Reserve.

The team walks along a wooden footbridge through the mangrove forest to the mudflats at Mai Po Nature Reserve.

The lectures on climate change that I received from the scientists and on advances in corporate sustainability initiatives from the guest lecturers were both eye-opening for me. On the science side, I enjoyed learning about the impacts to the migrations and other stresses of my beloved animals, and the idea that “spring events” are happening earlier and earlier every year.

“On the sustainability side, I had no idea there were such advances underway, with everything from energy neutral data centers, to green accounting, to companies that take the worst kinds of waste and turn it to energy.”

Andrew (second from right) and his team test carbon content in the soil at the mudflats of Shenzhen Bay.

Andrew (second from right) and his team test carbon content in the soil at the mudflats of Shenzhen Bay.

The cumulative effect of my Earthwatch experiences has convinced a Senior Vice President at a bank that he should take his career in a different direction. I am in the process of applying to sustainability-related Master’s degree programs for fall admission.

“I want to have a positive impact on the planet in the way that Earthwatch has had a positive impact on me.”

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