Ms Jennifer Fiorentino and Mr Alfred Micallef are this year’s Buonamico Award winners. The Buonamico Award is a yearly award-giving ceremony under the patronage of H.E. President of Malta to honour individuals who have made significant contribution to our knowledge and/or management of local biodiversity and environmental resources. Giovanni Francesco Buonamico was a 17th century Maltese naturalist, whose varied intellectual interests resulted in the writing of at least four important manuscripts on natural history. These included the first flora of the Maltese Islands, the so-called “Brevis Notitia” manuscripts.

Jennifer Fiorentino started her career in science as a teacher of biology and physics at the seminary back in 1976. Throughout the years she continued her teaching at various educational levels, with her teaching General Science at Siggiewi Girls’ Secondary School (1982-1983), A level Biology at G.F. Abela Upper Secondary (1983-1995) and was Senior Lecturer in Biology at the University Junior College (1995-2018).

During the 90s she was also a part-time Coordinator of the Biological Diversity & Genetic Resources Network of the  Malta Council for Science & Technology (MCST) during which period she served as Maltese Government representative at four UN Conferences dealing with the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). While at MCST, she was also involved in discussions leading to the transfer of the Argotti Botanic Gardens and Herbarium from Government to University.

For the past couple of decades she has been identifying local lichens growing mainly on rocks, trees and soil. During this time, she has authored several scientific publications and various popular articles on lichens besides delivering lectures on the subject. More recently following a request by ERA, Fiorentino has also compiled a Red List of lichens of the Maltese Islands.

Her research will ultimately lead to the publication of a much-needed new checklist of the lichens of the Maltese Islands.

Alfred Micallef also a teacher of biology, worked after hours as a lecturer of Faculty of Education within the University of Malta. While at the UOM he was involved mentoring and supervising several dissertations on various environmental educational fronts. He worked on the development and implementation of a programme of studies regarding the integration of environmental concepts in the primary school curriculum.

In 1973 during his teaching career, he introduced an extracurricular project called ‘The Science Club’.  This sought to instil in all students the application of scientific practice in all aspects of the environment through experiments, projects, tree planting and various other activities. In 1980 he received a commendation from the Commonwealth Association of Science and Mathematics educators.

Outside of his teaching career Micallef was an active member of the Teens and Twenties’ Talent Trust, where, as a particularly active volunteer he worked with other youths on beach cleaning, tree planting and afforestation project on the islands. He was also involved in the initiative which introduced bird nesting boxes in public gardens. He also worked hard together with his team to create a holistic environmental awareness amongst the public.

Perhaps the peak of Mr Micallef’s career was reached when the introduction of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award scheme took place. This was a good opportunity for all participants, irrespective of their physical abilities, to enhance their achievements through Expedition, Skill, Service and Physical recreation, eventually reaching Bronze, Silver and Gold levels. This was done in symbiosis with Environmental Studies.

Mr Micallef is forever grateful to the hundreds of students he met throughout his teaching career, who participated in all these ventures with passion, inquisitiveness and enthusiasm.

During his speech, His Excellency Dr George Vella stated that:

“We must not forget that what happens in our country does not only affect the health and safety of our people,” said H.E. the President. “Our behaviour in everyday life – what we eat, what we buy, what we throw away, and the means of transport we choose, have as much impact as big industrial projects. We must not forget that, in order to clean the air, reduce drastic climate change, protect wildlife and the oceans, we, all of us, are responsible… This does not happen by default: in most cases, we have degraded it ourselves… it is our duty to fix it. Therefore, we need to be aware of our actions. What we destroy today will be lost forever, but what we nurture will continue to bear fruit and give us and those who come after us a better quality of life.”

Both the President of Malta, His Excellency Dr George Vella, and ERA’s Chairman, Professor Victor Axiak, congratulated the winners and their families, whilst thanking them for their priceless efforts towards the environment and for bravely spearheading initiatives that started to bring about societal change within Malta and amongst the Maltese.

26 October 2020