Pinjarra: Two locals return from sustainability trip to Pyrenees

Paul Dwyer (second left) and Erika Branski (centre) travelled to the Pyrenees to help research climate change.
Paul Dwyer (second left) and Erika Branski (centre) travelled to the Pyrenees to help research climate change.

TWO local residents have returned from the trip of a lifetime after working on a climate change research project in Andorra in the Pyrenees, between France and Spain.

Erika Branski from Dwellingup and Paul Dwyer from Pinjarra were among eight Alcoa employees from around the world chosen to take part in the week-long environmental expedition, which is a partnership between the Earthwatch Institute and the Alcoa Foundation.

Both Erika, who works on the blast crew at Alcoa’s Huntly Bauxite Mine and Paul, a stores and emergency response coordinator at Willowdale Bauxite Mine, have a passion for climate change and sustainability.

The Alcoa Earthwatch Fellows worked alongside professional scientists to study tree growth and condition, trap and study birds, small mammals and insects and check on wildlife cameras hidden in the woods.

They also retrieved tea bags planted in the soil by previous expeditions and studied rates of decomposition, microbe activity and moisture levels

The research will help scientists and local organisations better manage the already fragile environment of the Pyrenees and ease the impacts of climate change.

Mr Dwyer said the adventure was an awesome and humbling experience.

“Hiking through the Andorran Pyrenees and exploring this magical location was a highlight, although the physical demand of climbing the mountains for five days, carrying equipment and supplies up and down, was a challenge at times.’’

“The most exciting thing I learned was that one person really can make a difference towards sustainable living.”