Seabird Islands in a Plastic Soup

Posted on July 20, 2013

Dr. Jennifer Lavers discusses her plastic addiction and the remote areas where worlds collide.

I was busy analysing my data from the Gannet Islands when I overheard my PhD supervisor say he was looking for someone to catch seabirds on French Frigate Shoals, a remote coral atoll in the middle of the North Pacific Ocean. Four days by boat from Honolulu, French Frigate Shoals was pretty much the farthest I could get from civilisation. Perfect!
Located within French Frigate Shoals is a tiny sand spit called Tern Island. Constructed as a runway during World War II from dredged coral, it spans only 300 x 1000 metres. Tern Island was sold to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the 1970s and designated as a wildlife refuge. It is now home to thousands of seabirds and sea turtles, and researchers from all over the world descend here to study marine ecology away from damaging human activities. But it was here that the impact of humans was most apparent.

Dr Jennifer Lavers is a Research Fellow at Monash University.

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