Described by David Attenborough in 1995 as 'one of the world's greatest surviving natural treasures', Aldabra Atoll, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is under threat from increasing marine plastic pollution. Aldabra has a rich and diverse ecosystem that includes giant tortoises, flightless rails and rare seabirds, all of whom are at great risk from the tonnes of ocean trash that wash onto the atoll's shores every year: in just three weeks in December 2017, the handful of conservationists already working there collected 200kg of waste from just one beach. Action must be taken. Several Queen’s academics have been privileged to work on Aldabra and our community is uniquely placed to give back to this very special place that cannot protect itself.
Queen's Fellow in Plant Sciences, Dr Lindsay Turnbull, is a Trustee of the Seychelles Islands Foundation (the organisation responsible for Aldabra). DPhil student, April Burt, was Scientific Coordinator on Aldabra before coming to Queen's. Together they resolved to clean up the site, bring the plight of the atoll to the world’s attention, and to share the story with young people in the UK. They have recruited a group of six graduate students (four ecologists and two material scientists) who will head to Aldabra in March 2019 to work with six Seychellois environmentalists to transform the shores of the atoll.
The team will charter a cargo vessel to Aldabra and stay for between three and five weeks, gathering as much plastic and marine debris as possible– from flip-flops to toothbrushes, fishing nets to water bottles – all to be taken back to Mahé, Seychelles' largest island, for proper processing. Whilst undertaking the clean-up, the team will endeavour to analyse the waste to identify where the plastic has come from and quantify just how much this place is impacted by humanity.
Both in the lead up to and following the March expedition, the team will reach out to primary and secondary schools to engage and inspire young people to learn about Aldabra and minimise their use of plastic.
The cost of the expedition is £150,000
The biggest cost is £80,000 to charter the cargo boat to collect and transport the waste 1000km from Aldabra to the main Seychelles. Getting the team to Aldabra is also expensive: return flights to the Seychelles, a chartered plane to Assumption Island, and finally a boat to Aldabra, is expected to cost over £40,000 in total. Once on the atoll, the team will be living frugally, committing all their energy to clearing as much of the plastic and fishing debris as possible.
This is a real community project led by committed young women and men who are excited to have an opportunity to make a real difference in the world. They are seeking sponsors and supporters to enable the expedition to go ahead, to clean up Aldabra and to communicate to all the need to change our approach to plastic waste.
There will be outstanding opportunities for supporters to see and share the difference their contribution is making. Please join us to help make this expedition possible.