Oceanography plus Impact: Meet Chief Scientist Julia Reisser

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Julia Reisser chief scientist seabin project

We’re very excited to introduce everyone to The Seabin Project’s new Chief Scientist, Julia Reisser. With an incredible background in oceanography and working for some game-changing companies, Julia brings a wealth of knowledge, experience and passion to our team.

We sat down with Julia to discuss what a Chief Scientist actually does, the amazing research she’s been involved in and what she can bring to the Seabin team.

Hi Julia, welcome to the team! As the newly appointed Chief Scientist for The Seabin Project, why were you drawn to joining the Seabin team?

Thank you! I have been following Seabin’s work for a few years and I have always been a fan of Pete’s vision and ‘can do’ attitude. Building a successful cleanup venture is not easy and Seabin managed to create a business model that is both sustainable & impactful.

When I started to think what was next in my career, I thought of the fantastic cleanup & preventive job Seabin is doing around ocean plastic pollution and I immediately put ‘trying to join the Seabin team’ at the top of my wish list.

I feel I can significantly add value to what the Seabin fleet can offer to communities, businesses, and governments and at the same time, I feel I can learn a lot from Pete and the rest of the team when it comes to actually implementing an impactful business on the ground. 

Chief Scientist is a very impressive title. What did you study in order to get here?

I have an honours in Oceanography, Masters in Biological Oceanography, and a PhD in Ocean Plastic Pollution. I basically love studying and my most recent passion is Impact Investing; I read heaps about it both informally by browsing the internet as well as the part of my MBA, which I recently started at the University of Western Australia.

Where have you previously worked, and what value has that brought to the Seabin team?

I have 16 years of experience setting up, managing and leading research projects. You can check the peer-reviewed publications describing some of my work here. I have had many days at sea as well, thanks to the ocean science fieldwork I have done in the Atlantic, Pacific, Indian, and Antarctic oceans.

In recent years (2014 – 2018) I worked for Boyan Slat at The Ocean Cleanup, where I led both the Mega Expedition and Aerial Expedition projects. These projects led to the first comprehensive mapping of the so-called Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

My time at The Ocean Cleanup was quite valuable as it gave me the opportunity to lead and coordinate large teams involved in fieldwork, lab analyses, ocean modelling, data analyses, and report writing.

More recently, I worked for 12 months at the Minderoo Foundation. I was involved in many tasks but I think my most meaningful contribution was inspiring and helping Andrew Forrest build his vision around solving plastic pollution.

I think the main value I will bring to the Seabin Project is my help in launching an online interactive map that will turn the Seabins into the most powerful pollution monitoring tool. They will allow us to measure trends in pollution  – both in space and time  – for the first time, thus boosting our capacity to quantify the efficiency of upstream initiatives and enhance waste literacy of consumers, producers and governments.

Where do you see the future of Seabin headed?

I envision a network of ‘Seabin communities’ achieving massive environmental, social, and economic impacts worldwide.

Can you tell us a little more about your findings during your PhD on Marine Sciences?

My PhD project characterised and quantified plastic pollution in waters around Australia. The most fun bit was to be able to circumnavigate Australia by boat. Findings were published in peer-reviewed scientific journals, and covered by media articles, radio interviews and television news reports. You can read a little about one of my studies here.

I also did some part-time work while studying at the University of Western Australia (UWA). I really enjoyed assisting in a project that tracked baby sea turtles underwater using new acoustic technology, which you can view here.

Why should more marinas and harbours have a Seabin installed?

The Seabins are awesome water quality monitoring tools and an inspiration for community engagement.

Pete says his dream is to have a world with no Seabins; I think this is because he is underestimating the full potential of these units for monitoring. We should aim for a world full of Seabins recording ‘clean waters’ everywhere, all the time. That would be us knowing that we hit the SDG 14.1 target & making sure this remains the case for years to come.

A growing part of Julia`s role as Chief of Science will include working with local, state and federal governments globally to accurately measure both the health of waterways and the impact the Seabin smart technology can have by filtering over 21.5 million litres of water each day for micro plastics in the water table upstream.

Pollution Index®

Currently Julia and the team are working on a Pollution Index® that will be the platform that holds the baseline data that will be used to benchmark the health of our waterways.

pollution index

The objective is to use the Pollution Index® as the official indicator to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 14 – “Life Below Water.”

A big thank you to Julia for sitting down with us, and we’re so excited to have such a talented, educated and passionate Chief Scientist on the Seabin team! If you’d like to get in touch with Julia, you can send her an email here.