Our publications cover topics including impacts of plastic pollution on plants, animals, and aquatic environments, and biology and ecology of seabirds.

The use of vibrational spectroscopy and supervised machine learning for chemical identification of plastics ingested by seabirds

We present a robust method for the rapid, reliable chemical characterisation of ingested plastics (>1 mm) using infrared and Raman spectroscopy. We analysed 246 objects ingested by shearwaters from Lord Howe Island and found 92% of items visually identified as plastic were confirmed by spectroscopy, 98% of those were low density polymers such as polyethylene, polypropylene, or their copolymers. Ingested plastics exhibited significant evidence of biological contamination (i.e., biofilm) which can hinder ID by conventional library searching Publication Details »

Beyond the surface: Seabirds and plastics as indicators in a large, remote marine protected area

We document the exposure of juvenile Christmas Shearwaters to plastics on uninhabited Ducie Atoll in the remote South Pacific. Despite being surrounded by the very large Pitcairn Islands MPA, most birds (69 %) contained 3.8 ± 4.1 pieces of ingested plastic. Unexpectedly, the number, mass and frequency of occurrence of plastic in two age classes (young downy chicks and fledglings) was similar. Publication Details »

Cyclone Ilsa in April 2023 led to significant seabird mortality on Bedout Island

On 13 April 2023, Cyclone Ilsa crossed Bedout Island off Western Australia’s remote north coast. We use repeated aerial and ground-based transect surveys to estimate total mortality for three species. In total, we estimate that 80–90% of the populations of Masked Booby, Brown Booby, and Lesser Frigatebird were killed in the storm, with only 40 breeding Masked Booby (a putative endemic subspecies; Sula d. bedouti) recorded on the island 15 weeks later Publication Details »

Marine sampling field manual for microplastics

This manual aims to facilitate reliable microplastic and nanoplastics data comparisons across regions by implementing reproducible and comprehensive guidelines, covering all steps from sample collection, processing, laboratory procedures, and plastic characterisation. The approaches in these manuals provide methods for collecting data that are endorsed by researchers, managers, and technicians from multiple agencies with a variety of experience and subject-matter expertise. Publication Details »

Seabird transported contaminants are dispersed in island ecosystems

We determined metal concentrations in Flesh-footed Shearwater guano, soil, vegetation, and invertebrates (slugs) in order to assess whether the birds were contaminating their colonies on Lord Howe Island. Concentrations in guano were higher than most other seabirds, which may be due to the high amounts of plastics the shearwaters ingest. Soil samples from shearwater colonies had significantly higher metal concentrations compared with soils from control sites and formerly occupied areas. Publication Details »

Quantitative photography for rapid, reliable measurement of marine macro-plastic pollution

Measurement of plastic size, shape and colour is labour-intensive, unreliable and prone to observer bias, particularly when it comes to assessment of colour, which relies on arbitrary and inconsistently defined colour categorisations. We address this clear need for a standardization for data collection on plastic pollution, providing a method that can be readily automated. Publication Details »