Local students holding fundraiser rain barrel sale to support 2017 South Africa trip

A group of local students are hoping a rain barrel fundraiser will help cover the costs of a June 2017 trip to South Africa. From left, are Meg Linklater, Aralynn Mallalieux, Ali Struthers, Avery Armstrong, Maia Moore, Nathalie Bettger and Abbey Thorup. Absent were: Emily Vink, Sullivan Mitchell, Thomas Wrigley, Scott Williams and Max Boonstra.

By Dan Rankin

Thanks to a fundraiser going on this month, St. Marys and area residents in need of a rain barrel can get one for a bargain price while also helping a group of local students take part next year in a unique research trip to South Africa that includes studying elephants and SCUBA diving in the Indian Ocean.

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The rain barrel sale is on now at RainBarrel.ca/OWE, with barrels of different colours as large as 220 Litres (55 Gallons) starting at $55. The deadline for online orders is April 21. Ordered barrels can be picked up in the parking lot of McDonald’s Independent Grocer (780 Queen Street East) on Thursday, April 28 between 4:00 pm and 7:00 pm. A portion of the proceeds will go back to the group and help cover the group’s travel costs.

The group holding the sale is the “Operation Wallacea Expeditioners,” and includes high school and intermediate students who attend a number of local schools. Their planned two-week trip to South Africa in June next year will see them conducting research into the impact elephants are having on a wildlife reserve, as well as observing bird and plant species, before heading to the coast to observe underwater ecosystems in the Indian Ocean. There, they may come face-to-face with such animals as dolphins and manta rays.

According to a release, their efforts will “help set guidelines for human activities in the Indian Ocean, and help increase the knowledge of species there in the hopes of improving the health of local coral reefs.”

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One of the group’s coordinators, Nich Seebach, said this is the third time local students will be travelling on a research expedition with Operation Wallacea, with previous destinations including Peru and Honduras.

“They run a whole bunch of research sites around the world where they link up high school and university-aged students with professionals, experts, and PhD students,” he said. “They get everyone together so they can help each other out on their projects.”

For their third time partnering with the organization, Seebach said they decided to “go big” by choosing a trip to South Africa. As the students taking the trip will be receiving their SCUBA certifications, it also represents a step up from their previous trip to Honduras, when students got to go snorkeling. This time, they’ll be able to explore even more exotic, underwater ecosystems.

That’s one of the aspects Grade 8 student Meg Linklater is most excited about. “I’m most excited about the diving, and learning about the marine life and the ecosystems,” she said. “It’s a great opportunity – and it’s going to look great on resumes too.”

Seebach said people interested in supporting the fundraiser and buying a barrel are “strongly encouraged to pre-order,” adding that “it’s super easy to order them.”

“If people come out for the fundraiser it will help us a lot and support us in helping the ecosystem,” Linklater said.

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