14 May 2007
The Australian Consulate-General in Chicago today announced teenager Matt Basile as the inaugural recipient of The Steve Irwin Fellowship, in conjunction with the John G. Shedd Aquarium.
In July, Matt will travel to Australia for two weeks to work closely with staff at Sydney’s Taronga Zoo and Steve Irwin’s Australia Zoo in Queensland.
Matt said Steve Irwin was his childhood hero and he was excited by what he would learn in Australia. "Steve Irwin instilled a fascination and appreciation for wildlife in me at an early age. Without proper leadership and preservation today, much of the precious habitat and animals that live in it will be lost forever. That’s what makes Steve’s work all so important," he said.
The Steve Irwin Fellowship is an adjunct to Shedd Aquarium’s Mentor Programs that are offered to Chicago high school students interested in pursuing a career in marine science. It is supported by the Australian Consulate-General, the Macquarie Bank Foundation and Qantas Airways.
"Matt was the stand out candidate from the extremely high calibre of applications," said Mr. Bob Charles, Australian Consul General in Chicago.
Matt, who attends the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences, has a number of achievements in the area of marine science. He has competed in Illinois State Science Fairs and been awarded for cloning coral, which he sells to local pet stores, in a move to protect precious reef reserves. At school, Matt developed a hydroponic system using Tilapia (a variety of fish), fully funded from an external grant, and cultivated coral to fill two large tanks he built.
More broadly, Matt has been fascinated by animals and nature since he was a toddler. He has hatched and nursed a variety of native species before releasing them to the wild and even came home from a neighbourhood garage sale once with a pet alligator! He is a certified judge of meat and livestock and a member of the Future Farmers of America.
Mr Ted A. Beattie, president and CEO, John G. Shedd Aquarium, said Matt – who is involved in the aquarium’s Mentor Program – was the ideal candidate for the fellowship.
"For 77 years Shedd Aquarium has dedicated itself to educating people about animals and the environment, making connections that inspire them to make a difference. Through our successful Mentor Programs, that connection is personified through Matt and we can think of no other student to represent Shedd, Chicago and our country as the first Steve Irwin Fellow," he said.
"We are extremely grateful to Consul General Bob Charles and the Macquarie Bank Foundation for their vision and support of this once in a lifetime educational opportunity and we applaud them for teaming up with us in strengthening the longstanding history Shedd has had with Australia and our sister zoos and aquariums."
Ms. Kylie Rampa, Head of Macquarie Real Estate Capital – North America, Macquarie Real Estate Inc. said: "This is the first fellowship in honor of The Crocodile Hunter and Wildlife Warriors in the US and Matt Basile is a very worthy recipient. The fellowship will provide Matt with a life changing experience, and also help deepen cross cultural education and understanding between our two countries."
The Consul General, John G. Shedd Aquarium, and Macquarie Bank Foundation also thanked Akubra and Driza-Bone® for supplying Matt’s uniform for his adventure Down Under.
The Steve Irwin Fellowship is a tribute to The Crocodile Hunter’s commitment to ‘conservation through education’ philosophy, one that the Shedd Aquarium is equally committed to sharing with the Chicago community.
Since its opening in 1930, the John G. Shedd Aquarium has ranked among the world’s leading public aquariums and consistently been one of the most popular cultural attractions in Chicago, drawing 2 million visitors a year.
For further information, please contact:
Macquarie Bank Foundation
Tel: (612) 8232 7339