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Dragons to Debris: An Oceanic Society Expedition to Komodo

By Wayne Sentman

I've just arrived in Bali along with our team of marine biologists, environmental artists, local conservationists, and ecotourists,who will be participating in our Bali to Komodo snorkeling expedition. This special program, which we have titled Dragons to Debris, offers an in-depth exploration of Bali and Komodo, both below and above the water's surface and is a collaborative effort of Oceanic Society, Plastic Pollution Coalition, and the Drifters Project, run by Oceanic Society's artist-in-nature, Pam Longobardi. Heading up the scientific portion of the expedition will be Abby Barrows, from Adventure Scientists, who will be surveying for microplastics along our route.

Pam Longobardi on our 2014 Bali to Komodo expedition.

The expedition is a follow up to our 2014 program. This year, during our 10 days spent snorkeling among Indonesia's vibrant tropical reefs and exploring Komodo National Park we will also closely examine what actions could be proposed to promote “Blue Habits” in the region, and within local communities, that might reduce the proliferation of plastic pollution. In Komodo we will also visit the home of the largest land reptile, the Komodo dragon, some of which are also impacted by plastic pollution in the park.

Prior to our departure, our team has been meeting with local NGOs and businesses in the region that deal with plastic pollution and waste management issues. Yesterday we visited the offices of the Coral Triangle Center (CTC) to meet the Executive Director, Rili Djohani. Rili shared the exciting news that they will be breaking ground on a new public marine education center here in Bali next month, which will have a section devoted to plastic pollution. We also met Leilani Gallardo, a program coordinator for CTC who will be joining our team on the expedition.

The expedition team meeting with Coral Triangle Center executive director, Rili Djohani

Later in the day we met with Olivier Pouillon who has been working on the ground since the 1990s with local waste collectors in Bali to improve the municipal waste system and promote responsibility for waste management within the tourism industry. We learned about the new trash tech startup he is working to develop based in Bali, called Gringgo.co, that will help cities across Indonesia to clean up plastic waste.

We also met with the Bye Bye Plastic Bags team, a social initiative led by high school students to get the people of Bali to 'say no' to plastic bags. They started the program in 2013 and now have a volunteer team of 25-30 students from local and international schools around Bali. They have become a well-known international movement of inspiration, youth empowerment, and, of course, saying no to plastic bags.

Expedition members with the Bye Bye Plastic Bags team and Rahyang Nusantra and Adisa Soedarso of Gerakan Indonesia Diet Kantong Plastik

As we prepare to board our boat today, our team from Spain, Kenya, U.S., Ecuador, and Bali are all excited to have many days in the water to view Indonesia's spectacular marine life and coral reefs. But we are also driven by the mission to join together to support and to enact solutions to limit plastic pollution that we all regularly see impacting wildlife, marine & freshwater ecosystems, and humans in the places we work across the globe.

Stay tuned for more updates from our Dragons to Debris expedition.

Author

Wayne Sentman is our director of conservation travel programs and an Oceanic Society naturalist since 1998. He is an experienced guide with a diverse background in marine mammal, seabird, and marine debris research. Wayne also co-teaches undergraduate field programs in Kenya on human-wildlife conflict and on the use of social media and art to raise public participation in conservation. He recently received a Master's in Environmental Management from Harvard University.