Monday 11 April, 2011

Hard to stomach: Impact of marine debris on sea turtles

Dr Kathy Townsend, Moreton Bay Research Station, The University of Queensland

Moreton Bay is home to a staggering biodiversity of marine animals, including dolphins, corals, dugong and sea turtles. However, living next to Australia’s fastest growing city has its consequences for the 20,000 sea turtles who visit Moreton Bay.

In the last 20 years, floating marine debris has become an increasing concern due to the risk it presents to sea turtles. Records show that rubbish floating in the sea has caused 20% of turtle standings in Queensland by either entanglement or ingestion. However, in some areas of the world the rate is substantially higher, with up to 100% of stranded turtles containing plastics within their digestive systems.

This month, Dr Kathy Townsend from the Moreton Bay Research Station will discuss the plight of the sea turtles found in Moreton Bay and what humans can do to help.

  • Time: 6:30pm to 7:30pm (Doors open at 6pm)
  • Venue: Long Room, Customs House at Riverside
  • Refreshments: Complimentary wine and cheese will be served following the talk, and Dr Townsend  will be available to answer any questions
  • Questions? Contact Andrew (

Dr. Kathy Townsend is a marine biologist and the Manager of Research and Education at The University of Queensland’s, Moreton Bay Research Station (MBRS). Based on North Stradbroke Island, Kathy has been working and living on tropical research stations for over 15 years.

Kathy is a marine biologist with eclectic professional interests, which include marine ecology, animal behaviour, conservation and  human impacts on the marine environment. She has published in both international and regional journals and regularly presents at scientific conferences.

Kathy is a great believer in bridging the gap between academia and the general community. Kathy has established multiple community orientated research programmes involving scientist, industry and community contributions: recently winning the prestigious Peter Doherty Award for Science and Education in 2010.

As co-director of the Marine Pollution Research and Response Unit at UQ, Kathy is untangling the impact that discarded rubbish has on Moreton Bay’s sea turtle population. Through her work, it has been found that over 35% of the animals found within this region are dying due to eating the discarded marine rubbish. In 2009, she was awarded the prestigious Earthwatch/Goldring Marine Emerging Scientist Fellowship for her work in this area.


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