Keeping islands clean with litter art

13 October 2017
Aotea (Great Barrier) island litter art - mangopare
Mangopare, an example of Aotea (Great Barrier Island) litter art

Dr Marie McEntee, senior tutor Joe Fagan, and students Tracey Turner, Maraea Grant and Brittany Goodwin from the School of Environment have been hard at work partnering with Aotea (Great Barrier Island) primary schools to find creative solutions for the litter washing up on New Zealand’s sixth largest island.

With support from the MBIE Unlocking Curious Minds 2017 contestable fund, the Sea Science project aims to assist students and teachers to gather litter and use current and past beach clean-up data to work out how to manage the marine waste.

Project lead, Dr McEntee says the students and community are extremely surprised by some of their finds, including a wallaby skull and a fully functional sofa.

“We did the clean-ups in March, evaluated the data in April and then students presented their reports at a community hui in June.”

The presentations – comprising of drama, song, film and fabulous art – are among the best science reports Dr McEntee has ever seen.

“There is a serious message behind the project, as ultimately they are learning about how currents flow around the island, the wider impact of this man-made debris on their environment and how to reduce that impact.

“But along the way students are using their creative skills to turn some of the litter into sculptures, decorative fashion such as hats and jandals, and wall hangings.”

Students contacted Faculty of Science experts Dr Penny Brothers, Dr Rochelle Constantine and Dr Eddie Beetham, by Skype so they could ask more questions.

And in late October, a small group of students and teachers are visiting the University of Auckland to talk to Environment undergraduates about their project, and to engage in activities that will further their understanding about marine debris.

“We are looking forward to welcoming Aotea students to the University with the same warmth and hospitality they have always shown us when we visited their island home,” Dr McEntee says.

The MBIE Unlocking Curious Minds contestable fund supports innovative projects that excite and engage New Zealanders, particularly young people who have fewer opportunities to be involved with science and technology.

Read Can litter art help keep our islands clean?


Aotea (Great Barrier) island litter art - jandals
Decorative jandals from the Aotea (Great Barrier) island litter art project