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Healthier planet, healthier people

Dr. Kristal Ambrose poses in field with sunflowers

“This is my planet, this is my ocean. I deserve to fight. My voice matters.”

Dr. Kristal Ambrose

Dr. Kristal Ambrose’s relationship with ocean plastics began shortly after finishing high school.

While working at an aquarium in The Bahamas, she spent two days helping to save a turtle with an internal blockage of plastics. "As I was working to extract the plastics from the turtle's body, the turtle actually began to cry," she says, explaining that scientifically, this process is known as 'turtle tears', and enables a turtle to excrete excess salt from their bodies. "I started crying too, and from that moment on, vowed to never drop another piece of plastic on the ground again."

In 2013, Ambrose founded her non-profit environmental organization, the Bahamas Plastic Movement, to find solutions to alleviate plastic pollution and inspire Bahamian youth to create real change. “Education has been a huge part of the organization's mandate, with tuition-free camps allowing youth to act as citizen scientists conducting research and becoming engaged and empowered on this vitally important issue,” shares Ambrose.

“With the help of a lawyer, we wrote a bill of what a single-use plastics ban would look like for the Bahamas,” Ambrose explains. With a group of exuberant youth accompanying her, Ambrose took that draft bill, her research, and plenty of data to The Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources. Thanks to Ambrose’s efforts, the government of The Bahamas banned single-use plastic bags, plastic cutlery, straws, and Styrofoam containers and cups in January 2020 (the ban was announced in 2018).

Dr. Tony Walker from Dalhousie’s Faculty of Science School for Resource and Environmental Studies, investigates a wide range of biophysical sciences related to resource and environmental management, including the monitoring, management, and mitigation of plastic, microplastic and industrial contaminant pollution.

In 2023, Dr. Walker was one of the world’s most cited researchers. He is among 218 Canadians who made the 2023 list, which included 6,849 scholars from more than 1,300 institutions in 67 nations and regions. The evaluation and selection process for the list draws on data from the Web of Science citation index, together with analysis performed by bibliometric experts and data scientists at Clarivate’s Institute for Scientific Information.

Walker says it’s important for the public to recognize how pervasive microplastic pollution is. Because of their small size and because they are already airborne, microplastics can enter organisms, including humans, through respiration, which has health consequences that are still largely unknown.

“I think it’s important now for members of the public to recognize that microplastic pollution is everywhere,” Walker said. “Knowledge is really important because we can then help change decision-makers and give them the power to actually make really important decisions to curb plastic production.”


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