Portrait of the Week | Dr Jennifer Lavers | Melbourne Portrait Photography

What better place to photograph marine biologist, Dr Jennifer Lavers, than where she feels most at home: the beach.  Often referred to as ‘Garbage Girl’ or ‘Morticia’, Jenn studies the impacts of plastic pollution on marine animals.  She does this by spending most of her time sorting plastic bottle caps and cigarette lighters she’s collected from the beach, or from inside the stomach of seabirds.  Yes inside seabirds…

Marine animals mistake plastic items floating in the ocean as food and swallow it.  Seems like a silly thing to do, but with more than 4 million new pieces of plastic entering the ocean every day, there’s quite a bit floating about out there.  After decades floating in the ocean, some of our plastic waste begins to look and even smell like food, so marine animals eat it.

Now elbow deep in rubbish, she reflects on the days when, as a young student, she thought marine biology would be a glamorous career choice.

She has however, made studying the ocean into a career.  Not your typical academic, Jenn dedicates much of her time to engaging with the wider community in a language that everyone can understand.

‘Science can be exciting and boring all at the same time, it just depends on the language you use.  I translate complicated (boring) statistics into numbers that each of us can understand using real-life examples’ she says.  ‘I want people to feel empowered by new information.  It’s fine for scientists to say millions of plastic items are getting into our oceans, but people want to know where it’s coming from and how they can make a difference.’

I reckon everyone should head over to Jenn’s website http://www.jenniferlavers.org to gain useful facts, tips on living a greener life, and inspiration from one of her favourite quotes…

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.  ~Margaret Mead