A WA marketing officer is one of eight Wesfarmers employees chosen to take part in the Wesfarmers and Earthwatch Institute Employee Fellowship Programme.Melissa Vlachaou will fly to New Zealand tomorrow to take part in a research project looking at the environmental impact of tourism on dolphins.“I’m going to Kaikoura to look at the impact of tourism on dolphin survival,” Ms Vlachaou said.“Wesfarmers pays all the expenses, but it’s not five-star hotels. You go to help the environment and community. It’s real rural living. You help with cooking and general maintenance.“When I come back I’ll write a report on what happened, detailing what I participated in. I’ll promote the issue to my colleagues and the wider community.”Wesfarmers general manager of public affairs Keith Kessel said the program had been running for six years and, for the first time this year, Wesfarmers had expanded it to include eight places.“We got involved in 1997 because it’s a way of doing good things for the environment and it’s a real chance for employees to increase their environmental awareness,” he said.Mr Kessel said 150 applications were received for the program and attributed this year’s success to employee satisfaction and the enhancement of corporate citizenship.“The employee benefit factor is strong. It’s hugely interesting for them and it fits in with our environmental awareness. People get real benefits,” he said.Other fellowships granted this year include researching Koalas at St Bee’s Island in Queensland to determine what keeps isolated populations in balance so as to provide answers to managing overpopulated habitats.Ms Vlachaou is a marketing officer at Wesfarmers’ subsidiary Sotico and said she was motivated to apply for the fellowship after swimming with the dolphins at AQWA.
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