Ocean Talk with Katherine Bennett, Marine Biologist and Environmental Officer at The Department of Water

My journey as a marine biologist...

My journey as a marine biologist really started off with a volunteer trip to Costa Rica where we monitored the nesting Leatherback turtle populations. From there it has taken me to all over northern Western Australia, to the Great Barrier Reef and Northern Territories and even to Mozambique in Africa. These experiences have seen me swimming with humpback whales and manta rays, monitoring nesting turtle populations and working with community members to develop marine conservation programs and to foster a sense of responsibility for the ocean.

Manta Ray, Lady Elliot Island, Queensland. Photo: supplied.

The increasing threat of plastic pollution

One of the most prominent issues facing the ocean today is the increasing threat of plastic pollution. Unfortunately our society is very dependent upon single use plastics due to their convenience and we very much live by an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ attitude. Many marine animals or animals depended upon the ocean for any aspect of their life are facing an increasing risk through plastic consumption or entanglement. There are a growing number of reports of whales or birds washed up on beaches with their stomachs full of plastics.

How can you help?

Future students or even those who simply enjoy spending time in the ocean can help in many ways. Be it adjusting the way you and society views the use and disposal of plastics or by developing solutions to the issues. A simple way everyone can help is by getting involved in the many organisations out there that focus on marine conservation. Initiatives such as Take 3 (every time you visit the beach take three pieces of rubbish with you) is an easy way to contribute to preserving our oceans.

Measuring the growth of faltback hatchlings at AQWA as part of a program where we attached satellite trackers on the hatchlings to monitor their swimming movements. Photo: supplied.

Project Manta on Lady Elliot Island

One of my most memorable experiences was while working out on Lady Elliot Island on Project Manta, a program aimed at investigating manta ray biology and ecology, we were lucky enough to have a juvenile humpback whale swim right passed us while we were diving. Another stand out was watching my very first turtle nest hatch. Watching them poke their heads up through the sand and make the mad scramble down the beach to the water, really reminds you how unique and diverse our marine environment is, but also how fragile it can be which reinforces the notion that we must do all we can to preserve and protect it.

Flatback turtles hatching at Bare Sand Island, Norther Territories. Photo: supplied.

Katherine Bennett is an Environmental Officer at the Department of Water Western Australia. She holds a Bachelor of Marine Science (First Class Honours) from The University of Western Australia. 

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