Season 17 of Lord Howe plastics monitoring: THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!

April 2023 marks year 17 of the Adrift Lab long-term monitoring program for plastics ingested by Australian seabirds. In previous years, we’ve been incredibly fortunate to be joined by talented, kind-hearted artists, including photographer Mandy Barker, writer Cameron Muir, and Liz Bonnin from the BBC. This year we had the privilege of hosting Traditional Custodian and Wudjari artist, Jennell Reynolds, who is creating an aboriginal painting inspired by the seabirds and seascapes of Lord Howe Island.

There’s a lot that we could say about this trip: from the record-breaking number of plastics inside birds (more than 400 pieces in a single 90-day-old chick!) to the unusually low number of beach-washed birds. While one could argue the 2023 season was…strange, what we’ve come to understand after nearly two decades of intensive study on the island is that every single year is different when you’re working in the dynamic marine environment and rapidly changing climate future.

What was also notable this year was the source of funding. We have never held a major grant for our plastics research on Lord Howe, and each year we cobble together the $25,000 it costs to run our April field program. With the philanthropic funding we secured being actively withheld by another agency, paying for flights and other things was…difficult. The Natural History Museum and Esperance Tjaltjraak took the lead funding role this year. Without hesitation, these two organisations offered their full support, and in doing so, relieved the pressure on team members’ personal bank accounts (including students) and ensured this year’s sampling could go ahead. To say that we are grateful is an oversimplification: the success of this field season, and the fact that it went ahead at all, is a testament to the kindness and generosity of the NHM and ETNTAC. The Adrift Lab team, plus our many adoptees, Jennell, Theo, Justin, Caitlin, Sally, and Liv, are thrilled. Thank you for making us feel valued and helping us tell the birds’ story.

#LordHoweIsland #NaturalHistoryMuseum #EsperanceTjaltjraak #TeamWork #Gratitude #kindness #AdriftLab #shearwaters #seabirds #PlasticPollution #PlasticIngestion

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