Welcome to our "Ocean Passion Series" where we are interviewing ordinary people doing extraordinary actions for the ocean. We believe learning from others can help our own life become more engaged and inspired. This week we have an Environmental Ranger from down under! Wow!
Hello mate! Can you tell us about yourself and where you are in the world ?
My name is Jenni Bailey, I am 32 years old and am currently in the regional town of Mackay Queensland in Australia. I have lived in Mackay for the past 6.5 years and I originate from the Adelaide Hills South Australia where I grew up in the country town of Mount Barker on an Angus cattle property. I am currently the Environmental Ranger for the Mackay Regional Council.
Wow an Environmental Ranger sounds like a very cool career Jenni! We are looking forward to knowing more about your journey in South Australia. So let's start with something easy for you and ask you how long have you known your passion for the ocean and can you remember that day or situation that brought it to the surface and led you to becoming an ocean advocate?
When I was 10 the very first thing I wanted to be was a vet but when I realised I had to put animals down (with their best interest at heart), I quickly turned to Marine Biology. When I finished school I went on to fulfil my dream and study Marine Biology at Flinders University, South Australia. In 2006 I worked on a year-long project for globalisation (a university topic) helping to develop viable marine ecotourism guidelines to promote the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS) and dolphin tourism in the Port River, South Australia. I did my Honours on the ‘Effects of boat traffic on the behaviour of the Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops aduncas) in the Port River Region’. In 2010 I completed my Certificate ll in Conservation and Land Management with Conservation Volunteers Australia (CVA). During 2010 I volunteered with the Conservation Council Reef Watch Program, helping with intertidal monitoring of rocky reefs around the Adelaide region. Monitoring of intertidal rocky reefs was a unique opportunity to add to our knowledge on the marine environment of South Australia.
My love of the ocean has been with me since forever. According to my mum I could swim before I could crawl so I have always been around water. The ocean just fascinates me and now living on the Great Barrier Reef, marine conservation is a big part of my life! I love to educate others on the significance of our coastline, its marine life and the importance of conservation.
"We as humans need to become part of the solution, not part of the problem!"~ Jenni Bailey
Now that is an answer Jenni. You have some incredible knowledge that you're putting to action for the ocean and its inhabitants. That helps us lead into the next question so please tell us what actions have you done or do to give back or help the ocean?
In South Australia I was involved with restoration and revegetation of the Lower Lakes Alexandrina and Albert and around the Murray River mouth. Following the millenium drought through 2007-2009 when the Murray ceased to flow, suffered multiple kilometres of long green algal blooms over much of its length and not only did the Mouth silt up but the surrounding area suffered from salination and in many places acid sulphate came to the surface and caused stock deaths as well as fresh water turtle and marine life deaths. Thousands of acres became a desolate, stinking, brine marsh too saline for living things and the only way forward was the planting of salt tolerant plants and shrubs which could effect a remedy to the ailing lands. Many farmers, dairymen and fishermen lost their way of life and only now is the area beginning to return to health. Over a million trees and shrubs were planted. I also volunteered with Reef Watch which is a program under the Conservation Council SA. I did small things like intertidal reef monitoring and assisted with stalls educating the public on the “Feral or in Peril” program.
In 2012, about a year after I moved to Mackay I was approached to help a local dive business set up and take tourists out to the local islands. Educating people on the importance of our reef has always been an important factor and this was a great opportunity to not only dive most weekends but give people an understanding for why our reef ecosystem is so important.
I then started working for Mackay Regional Council as the Environmental Ranger and I came across a local organisation called “Mackay and District Turtle Watch”. The group was struggling with transporting sick and injured sea turtles to the Eco Barge Clean Seas Turtle Hospital in Airlie Beach (300km round trip from Mackay). With the approval from work since 2014 I have become the main turtle transporter aiding in getting sea turtles to the hospital as quickly as possible. Not all survive but the ones that do, I transport back to Mackay for release.
I have also volunteered on a trip with Wildmob which involved six days and five nights camping on St Bees Island assisting with habitat restoration. The project included pulling lantana, prickly pear, snake weed and castor oil plants – all pests to our native species that cause significant damage to the natural environment.
Another good action for us Aussies that I use quite frequently when out on the water is a program called ‘Eye on the Reef’. It’s a reef monitoring and assessment program run by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. The program enables anyone who visits the Great Barrier Reef to contribute to its long-term protection by collecting valuable information about reef health, marine animals and incidents. It’s a great way for any user to build a knowledge of the things that can be found right here at our door step!
Jenni you have gone above and beyond your responsibilities as an Environmental Ranger! From planting millions of trees & shrubs, driving sick sea turtles to the hospital, to even volunteering on ocean related jobs. That is definitely showing us the passion you have for the ocean. So let's go a bit deeper and ask how has your passion for the ocean changed your thinking and your life?
In this day and age
I am a big advocate of marine conservation but it would seem that as we move forward, even with state of the art technologies the problem of plastic pollution is growing exponentially every year. “A Plastic Ocean” informs that globally we are producing more than 300 million tons of plastic, half of which is designed for single use and each year around 8 million tons of it ends up in our oceans. Because of my passion I have endured to buy plastic alternatives, reduce plastic consumption in every day shopping and attempt to use more natural alternatives such as laundry detergents that can harm the environment and ultimately end up in the ocean. I try and live by the ‘Three R’s of the Environment” – Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. It’s quite simple really, don’t buy what you don’t need or items that come in wasteful packaging or that cannot be recycled and reuse and recycle whatever you can! The small changes we can make will make a massive impact on the environment and our oceans into the future. It’s a good point to mention that in Australia, the REDcycle Program is a voluntary, industry-led initiative developed by Melbourne based organisation RED Group. The Group has teamed up with supermarket giants Coles and Woolworths as well as some other Australian loved brands to reduce the amount of plastic packaging going to landfill. The awesome thing about REDcycle is that you can drop off all your soft plastics (any plastic that can be scrunched) to a REDcycle drop off point and in collaboration with Replas turns our plastics into a range of great products using the recycled materials. We as humans need to become part of the solution, not part of the problem!
"if it’s something that you are passionate about and believe in, then ‘one person can truly make a difference"~ Jenni Bailey
Although I am not a vegetarian I source food from my local veggie shop, butcher, bakery and fishmonger. I try very hard to limit the amount of products I need to buy from supermarket giants such as Woolworths and Coles. If we begin to shop local then we can learn to reduce our carbon footprint ultimately reducing our greenhouse gas emissions (burning of fossil fuels) and combating climate change. As I am a firm believer that global warming does exist, it is important for each individual to understand his or her impact on the future and work to make their impact more positive.
Thank you Jenni for sharing sites that people can learn from to find products that can help the earth. Plastic has created such a distress on both land and ocean however with the ocean being so vast the waste has floated to remote areas. This has caused so much damage and death to marine life and birds. You are such devoted person to your studies and actions for the ocean, has your passion for the ocean brought out strengths or confidence that would have or may have been a fear?
I think you learn to be confident and have strength in what you believe in. For me, I believe in education and changing people’s mind sets to think more positively for our environment. I have never been afraid to voice my opinion which was evident when I organised and ran an Anti-Whaling Day protest on 5th November 2010 in the heart of Adelaide. The protest took place in 6 continents, 22 countries and 57 cities where like mind people marched as one to protest on the graphic violence against cetaceans. I never thought I would have had the skills to organise let alone run a protest but it was a reminder that if it’s something that you are passionate about and believe in, then ‘one person can truly make a difference’.
Oh wow you have even protested the protection of whales! That is awesome Jenni. Yes you're right that one person can make a difference. With all of your ocean actions from work to volunteering tell us what ocean organization is your favorite and why?
I am a fan of a few Australian ocean organisations including Australian Marine Conservation Society, Wildmob, Tangaroablue and Eco Barge Clean Seas. Each of these organisations help the marine environment in some shape or form with a massive emphasis on marine debris and clean ups.
Ultimately the organisation I think out there with the greatest amount of risk taking is Sea Shepherd. They are out there on all fronts tackling marine issues like illegal fishing, marine mammal exploitation, coastal and marine development, destructive marine industries, inadequate species protections, marine pollution and climate change. Sea Shepherd gives a voice to our oceans!
Oh you have shared some great ocean organizations. It is great to have local organizations helping with debris and clean ups. It is not only beaches that need it but local water ways like streams, rivers, and lakes. We also absolutely agree that Sea Shepherd gives a great voice for our oceans! Moving on, Jenni in your own words what would you like people to know that was a great lesson you have learned because of your passion?
Oh my goodness, there are so many but the main one, reduce your plastic pollution! As mentioned earlier, plastic pollution is growing exponentially every year and more than half is designed as single use. Every year 8 million tons of plastic ends up in our oceans! We can solve this problem and we can do it by educating and engaging everyone in a conversation to rethink plastic. Organisations like ‘Plastic Oceans’ is working to change the way we deal with plastic waste by challenging society’s perception that this indestructible substance can be treated as ‘disposable’. I urge everyone reading this to watch the movie A Plastic Ocean and discover the detrimental effects that humans are having on our ocean planet. Other movies that can inspire all of us to make small changes in our lifestyles are ‘Blue the film’ and ‘Chasing Coral’. When we understand the truth, only then can we make a difference!
"The ocean is a time out, a place to get away and feel at one with the world."~Jenni Bailey
Documentaries are so wonderful and have helped create new thinking on so many levels. You are correct that if people understand the truth then they can make an informed decision to make a difference. We have seen so many amazing positive changes happen for our oceans due to people becoming aware. What do you feel you could have done differently to get you to where you are now that may help as a stepping stone for someone else into helping the ocean?
I think if you are passionate about something it doesn’t matter how you get there, it’s the journey that matters and the lessons that you learn along the way. Everyone can help our oceans whether it being scientifically or just picking rubbish up off the beach, everyone can make a difference and ultimately have a positive impact on our oceans.
Absolutely! Passion for something makes you create action and soon a journey has begun. It really is that easy and there is no thought of time, energy, and work.. it is just what can I do next! Jenni you have shown us so many amazing ocean activities you do so tell us what would be your favorite thing about the ocean?
There’s not much I cannot love about the ocean, I have always been fascinated with what lies beneath, the diversity of species the ocean contains and that it is the primary ingredient for supporting life as we know it. I love to snorkel, dive, sail and simply walk my two dogs along the beach to relax. Being on the ocean brings a sense of peace and calm to a world consumed and connected by technology. The ocean is a time out, a place to get away and feel at one with the world.
How beautifully said Jenni! Thank you Jenni for sharing with us all your incredible work. We now have learned so many ways to gather information regarding a reduction of plastic use and how some plastics can be recycled into new products instead of the landfill growth. We appreciate you a lot for your unselfish and energetic actions you perform and have created your life around. So refreshing actually.
Check back next week on the Ocean Passion Series to find out who our next ocean passionate guest will be and you will never be disappointed! Check out our past guests here >>Ocean Passion Series<<