GSDC Medal finalist reports on ocean plastic

Person with jar of plastic waste

GSDC support is helping to raise awareness of plastic pollution in and around the ocean, including new information about birds transporting plastic material. Dr Harriet Paterson has used the $1,000 grant she received as a finalist in the 2019 GSDC Medal to fund travel for investigations into ocean plastic pollution.

Dr Paterson was nominated for the medal in recognition of her research and volunteer work raising awareness of oceanic plastic pollution, including microplastics, and coordinating beach clean-ups.

In a recent project report to the GSDC, Dr Paterson outlined 14 trips to Mutton Bird Beach for plastics collection, and one trip to Perth for investigation into pelicans as carriers of plastics. Dr Paterson said anecdotal information suggested that pelicans transported large volumes of plastic from waste facilities to offshore marine islands.

“I investigated three ex pelican rookeries on Penguin Island,” Dr Paterson said. "These were heavily contaminated with material from waste facilities on the mainland. Items included plastic bags and butchery products including cut bones, nets and plastic bands used to contain roasts and chicken legs.

“This research has identified a novel flow of plastic material from a terrestrial site to a marine island and will be written up for publication.”

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