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Earlier this month, the Waitaki Whitestone Geopark Trust advertised that it would be sponsoring one lucky Waitakian to participate in the four-week Online Geopark Course offered by the Universidade do Minho in Portugal. The course provides an introduction to the concepts of geodiversity, geological heritage, and geoconservation and presents initiatives that can be developed by geoparks around the world. It aims to provide professional development to staff in nature conservation and land management, geologists, geographers, tourism, and regional planning managers, as well as university students.

After reviewing the expressions of interest, the Trust decided to sponsor not one, but two Waitakians. “Both participants are a great fit for the course, and we believe it will support them on their career path,” said Helen Jansen, Chair of the Trust. The sponsorships went to Emma Petrie and Fliss Butcher.

Emma, a former student of Waitaki Girls’ High School and volunteer at the Vanished World Centre in Duntroon, is passionate about geology. She is currently on a gap year in the UK but will return in 2021 to study geology/geography at the University of Otago. Fliss lives in Oamaru and works as a Planner and Researcher. In her expression of interest, she said: “When I saw the online Geopark course opportunity I thought ‘WOW’! I see it adding real value to a Waitaki Planner's toolkit - and a great way to bring in more knowledge to support the Geopark concept.”

The cost of tuition is co funded by the New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO, as part of their minor grant funding scheme. The grant will support the Trust’s staff and Waitaki community to take digital courses so that they can widen their knowledge about geoconservation and geoparks and improve the establishment and development of the Waitaki Whitestone Geopark.

The grant also co funds the tuition for the Digital Course on UNESCO Global Geoparks delivered by the University of the Aegean and the Natural History Museum of the Lesvos Petrified Forest at Lesvos Island UNESCO Global Geopark. Lisa Heinz, Geopark Coordinator, will participate as part of her role within the Waitaki Whitestone Geopark team. The course will focus on UNESCO Global Geoparks as Territories of Resilience. Resilience is a fundamental concept already included in the Geopark concept and is related to any kind of environmental and humanitarian crisis: Earthquakes, Tsunamis, Floods, Landslides, Volcanic eruptions, Droughts, Economic crisis, Epidemics, Terrorism, War, Refugees and of course the COVID-19 pandemic.

More information on the Courses can be found here:

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