Marine Biologist & Science Teacher
Instructor, Santa Monica High School, California, USA
Qualifications: BSc (Marine Biology) 2001, Masters (Marine Biology) 2005
THE wonders of the world’s oceans appear infinite: endless deep blue depths, an unlimited quantity of incredible sea creatures, billions of salty waves stretching out to an eternal horizon. But according to UQ Science graduate Benjamin Kay, the glory of the globe’s vast aquatic environments could be changed forever if humans do not rethink their actions.
Benjamin, a marine biologist, works as a marine science instructor at Santa Monica High School in his US-home state of California. It was as an undergraduate student at The University of California (UC) Santa Barbara that he first visited UQ in 2000, when he took part in the UC Australian Marine Studies program with Dr Ian Tibbetts.
“I enjoyed the program and the amazing Australian marine ecology so much, that I later returned to Down Under and UQ to do my Master’s Degree in marine biology,” he says. Now back in California, Benjamin dedicates his life to teaching his students about aquatic ecosystems and the anthropogenic impacts that threaten their fragile existence.
He also coaches Team Marine and the Heal the Bay Club: two student groups devoted to advocating the protection of marine and terrestrial habitats. Benjamin says his students not only raise awareness of the many threats to the ocean; they make “real changes” through the likes of demonstrations, pollution research, and posting of eco-videos on video sharing website YouTube.
He describes his and his students’ “biggest achievement” over the past three years as helping persuade Santa Monica City Council to vote in favour of banning single-use plastic bags in all retail stores across the city. Another of Team Marine’s projects has seen them aid the Algalita Marine Research Foundation to construct “Junk” – a 6m x 9m raft floating on 15,000 recycled plastic bottles – which sailed from Long Beach, California to Hawaii, all in the name of bringing public attention to plastic pollution in the marine environment.
Benjamin attributes the difference he and his students have made to his time at UQ. “Today, my students and I continue to reap the benefits of the funds of knowledge and skill sets that I adopted through my international programs at UQ,” he says. “I am forever grateful for my Aussie experiences and how they enrich the daily experiences of my students in the classroom.”