Environmental scientist ‘Kristal Ocean’ leads youth activism against plastic pollution

February 23, 2023
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Kristal Ambrose picking up garbage along the beach with others

Kristal Ambrose, also known as ‘Kristal Ocean,’ has taken an unusual path in marine sciences – she was a researcher first, then went to university.

“I started my academic career in reverse,” says the 2017-18 QES Scholar, “working first in marine sciences as a research assistant, right out of high school.”

She’s been in the field for 15 years now, leading both research efforts and impactful youth activism against plastic pollution in the waters of her home country, The Bahamas.

After sailing across the Pacific Ocean in 2012 to study the Western Garbage Patch, Kristal returned home and started a plastic pollution revolution. In 2013, she began The Plastic Beach Project; a citizen science project to study plastic concentrations on beaches of The Bahamas. She then started the non-profit Bahamas Plastic Movement (BPM) to raise awareness and find solutions to the growing problem.

Through the BPM, Kristal has spread the word on the plastics crisis with thousands through educational lectures, summer camp programs and citizen science projects around the world.

Kristal took part in the QES program while completing her master’s studies at Dalhousie University in Marine Management, with a focus on plastic pollution research.

While a QES Scholar, she moderated an event at the United Nations Environment Assembly meeting in Nairobi, Kenya on international governance for marine litter. In 2018, Kristal and her youth delegation successfully advocated for the banning of single use plastics, Styrofoam and balloon releases in The Bahamas by 2020.

Kristal is a 2020 recipient of the Goldman Environmental Prize, the world’s most prestigious award for grassroots environmental activists.

She recently moved to Sweden to pursue her PhD in marine debris monitoring. She’s scaling up her research, looking at the various methods of data collection around marine plastics used in Caribbean, with plans to use the findings to inform public policy.

Kristal says taking part in the QES program was a vital step in advancing her research career.

“I wouldn’t be in this next step in my academic career if it wasn’t for that QES opportunity. That research component was so important to me. I had great research supervision and the experience opened so many doors.”

Through QES, Kristal did an internship in Norway and built connections there, something she’s found very beneficial in transitioning to her PhD in Sweden.

Over the longer term, Kristal says she would like to establish a regional database on marine plastic and train “people to go out and collect data on a consistent basis” – while continuing to grow the Bahamas Plastic Movement.

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Media contact:

Lisa Wallace
Assistant Director, Communications
Universities Canada
[email protected]

Tagged:  Environmental sustainability, Global connections, Research and innovation

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