My research is about plastic pollution and the impacts that it has on wildlife (especially seabirds!) and ecosystems. Part of my work is quantifying the impacts of policy interventions (e.g. plastic bag bans, container deposit schemes, recovery) on reducing the flow of plastic pollution into the environment.
Stopping the flow plastic entering the environment is crucial to protect our wildlife, which are already experiencing devastating declines from habitat loss, invasive species, and climate breakdown.
What do I hope to achieve?
Our work aims to inform governments, NGOs, businesses, and individuals about the level of effort that we need to put in as a global community to eliminate plastic pollution. We are working to quantify the suite of plastic pollution reduction strategies that are being implemented and proposed by cities, counties, states, and countries around the world, and develop reduction targets for policymakers that will meaningfully reduce future plastic emissions (follow our progress at www.plasticpeg.org or on twitter).
Why is this important?
As a seabird conservation ecologist, finding solutions to marine plastic pollution is close to my heart. Aotearoa New Zealand, my home, is the seabird capital of the world – we have 87 species that breed here! Seabirds are the most threatened group of animals worldwide – a whopping (and unacceptable) 31% risk extinction. They are disproportionately affected by plastic pollution because of their foraging strategies (feeding at the surface of the oceans). Land-based conservation efforts (such as predator eradication) around the world have improved the conservation status of numerous species (like the New Zealand storm petrel), but increasing threats, like plastic pollution, (and also fisheries interactions and climate breakdown) mean continued and active management is vital if we’re going to protect these charismatic birds the world over. So, with my research, I hope that I can contribute to making the oceans a little less crowded with plastic for our seabirds.
Previously I was at Ocean Conservancy based at the University of Toronto (in the Rochman Lab with Associate Professor Chelsea Rochman) and the University of Georgia, USA (in the Jambeck Research Group with Associate Professor Jenna Jambeck) – two of the world’s leading experts on plastic pollution.