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Biology: Marine Plastic Pollution

Learn about your plastic footprint with Dr Heidi Auman

Dr Heidi Auman is a Tasmanian researcher who studies human impacts on seabirds. To share her passion for conservation with the next generation, Heidi wrote a children’s book: Garbage Guts.

In addition to her book, Heidi also offers the following resources and opportunities for schools:

Dr Heidi Auman has studied human impacts on seabirds and has been involved in educational outreach for much of the past thirty years. A pioneer on the research of plastic ingestion, she lived on Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge 1993–2000, studying the effects of marine debris and pollutants on Laysan albatross. Heidi has also explored plastic ingestion in subantarctic and Tasmanian seabirds, chemical contamination in Great Lakes birds, and the effects of junk food on urban gulls. She has demonstrated that our ecological footprint has reached the farthest corners of the earth, often with disturbing consequences. Heidi lived cheek-to-beak with Midway’s albatrosses, studying the amounts and effects of our garbage in their guts. Sadly, she found that over 97% of these birds contained marine debris (mainly plastic) and most of it could be measured in multiple handfuls.

Heidi is passionate about sharing her research discoveries from remote islands. Although she has published numerous scientific articles, she feels that few people other than academics will ever read these. As a world trailblazer on plastic ingestion in seabirds, she was compelled to write a book for a wider audience. Heidi hopes to send an important message aimed at younger readers who can champion solutions to this serious global issue.

On Heidi's website, you can watch her read an excerpt from Garbage Guts, followed by a powerful presentation about her research on marine plastic debris. The presentation starts at 12:20 into the video.

If your class has any questions about marine debris, seabirds or being a biologist, please email them to us and Heidi will respond.

In addition to her book, Heidi also offers the following resources and opportunities for schools:

  1. Download the simple reduce your plastic footprint guide (PDF 872.5KB).
  2. This series of 14 detailed lesson plans on the web page EPA Plastic Waste Resource investigates plastic waste in our world. They are recommended by Heidi and designed by the Tasmanian Environmental Protection Agency. The lesson plans are specifically aligned to the Year 4 curriculum, but can be used across multiple classes.