Ko te Tai-o-Rehuā te moana (The Tasman is my sea)
Ko te Waipounamu te waka (The south island is my land)
Ko Aoraki te māunga (The mountain is Aoraki)
Ko te kawatiri te awa (The river is the Buller)
Ko Steph Borrelle tokū ignoa (My name is Steph Borrelle)
Kia ora! I’m a David H. Smith Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Georgia, USA (in the Jambeck Research Group with Professor Jenna Jambeck), and Ocean Conservancy based at the University of Toronto (in the Rochman Lab with Associate Professor Chelsea Rochman) – two of the world’s leading experts on plastic pollution. My research is on quantifying the impacts of intervention strategies (e.g. plastic bag bans, container deposit schemes, clean-ups) on reducing the flow of plastic pollution into the environment. This is an enormously challenging field of research, fortunately I am working with an amazing team of scientists, policy wonks, and conservation practitioners to create meaningful action on this intensifying environmental issue.
What do I hope to achieve? Our work aims to inform governments and agencies about what are the most effective strategies to reduce plastic waste by providing model scenarios of future plastic emissions and the relative reduction of emissions using different strategies, built from empirical data. (You can follow our progress on twitter)
Why is this important? As a seabird conservation ecologist, finding solutions to marine plastic pollution is close to my heart. Seabirds are the most threatened group of animals worldwide – a whopping (and unacceptable) 29 per cent 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 change) 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.