Kathryn Willis

Project Info

Role Global Environments Summer Academy 2018 participant
Nationality Australian

Project Description

I grew up in a small town (population less than 200 people) on the north west coast of Tasmania, Australia. Growing up in remote Tasmania made it easy to develop a passion and deep love for the oceans, mountains and forests. During college, I was exposed to the damages that mismanaged waste, especially plastic pollution, can cause to our environment. Plastic pollution harms over 800 species of wildlife through entanglement and ingestion, and damages the economy of local communities via loss of tourism and clean-up costs. This knowledge set me on the path to discover ways to educate communities on the problems of plastic pollution and to improve our formal and informal waste management practices to reduce plastic waste from entering the environment.

My current research examines how successful local government waste management policies, infrastructure and outreach programmes are at reducing waste from entering the marine environment. Through my research I plan to develop a toolkit waste managers can utilise to improve the management of waste in their community. I am a Ph.D. student in the School of Social Sciences, University of Tasmania, Australia. My Ph.D. programme is in partnership with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Australia, the National Environmental Science Programme (NESP), Australia and the Centre for Marine Socioecology (CMS), University of Tasmania, Australia.

In March 2017, I was excited to publish my first research paper in Nature Scientific Reports. Since then I have published two additional papers in scientific journals (Frontiers in Marine Science and Marine Policy) and in March 2018, I presented my work at the 6th International Marine Debris conference.

During my Ph.D. programme I have been very active in engaging with the community. Internationally, I ran a marine debris workshop for staff and students at the Faculty of Marine Science and Fisheries, Udayana University, Bali, Indonesia. The workshop involved training 80 participants in CSIRO marine debris survey techniques. The following week, I and the workshop participants surveyed 54 sites around the entire Bali coastline in a single day.

Locally, I have presented and hosted marine debris/waste management workshops for high school and primary school students, community members and STEM teachers. I was excited to discover that my work is already starting to make an impact on my local community. Through newspaper and television interviews, the results of my work have been shared. As a consequence, local community members have relayed their enthusiasm to make waste wise choices in their own lives.

Prior to my Ph.D., I worked on cool-temperate reef systems, southern Bluefin tuna populations and microplastics in marine sediments. I completed my Bachelor in Science, majoring in Environmental Studies and Zoology, at the University of Tasmania, Australia. I currently reside in Hobart, Tasmania where I can study and pursue my outdoor passions of scuba diving, hiking, ocean swimming and cycling.


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