Kathy Townsend

Kathy Townsend

I am a marine scientist that specialises in marine animal conservation and human impacts on the marine environment. I am passionate about bridging the gap between science and the general public.

Location Australia


  • And here lies the complexity around plastics, Lee. Sterile, single use medical items have provided tangible positive outcomes for human health. However, the issue is around disposal. Most medical waste is incinerated at extremely high temperatures, to prevent contamination within the environment. However, not all countries can do this. For example, I work in a...

  • @SuzanaPetrovic We are currently writing a paper on that exact problem. The fact that COVID caused huge setbacks regarding legislation of single use plastics, AND ended up introducing a whole new type of disposable plastic into the environment - the single use masks.

  • How fabulous! I would love to receive a hand made honey dipper as a present! Well done Barbara!

  • @AngelaGrist I think you have hit the nail on the head there. The problem is that is it really difficult to reduce your use of plastics because, as consumers, we are not offered any other choice! As Alexandrea mentions above, the manufacturers really have to re-think how they are packaging their products.

  • Well that is a source of plastic that I had not even thought of, Alex. Who knew that electric fencing wire consisted of a polymer that broke down over time? Thanks for highlighting that.

  • The blue-ringed octopus hides in sea grass beds, and are very camouflaged. They do not display their blue rings unless they feel threatened. Sea turtles, on the other hand, do not "watch" when they are feeding. They start in a line and just move forward, taking big bites of seagrass as they go. Once the octopus was in the mouth of the sea turtle, there was...

  • Thanks for that Mark! I have actually now suggested Zooniverse to some of your fellow learners. It is a great website for connecting those who want to be involved, but, for what ever reason, can not be out in the field to collect the data.

  • ¡Qué maravilloso proyecto! También trabajo con el público en general para ayudar a reducir el impacto de los desechos marinos. ¡Cada poquito ayuda!

  • Hey Lee, if you would like to get involved in citizen science projects, there are plenty of them that you can do from your own home, in front of a computer. Mark (above) highlighted one of the biggest projects called Zooniverse https://www.zooniverse.org/
    Here you can help monitor monkey health or watch for big cats in camera trap footage.

  • Wonderful example and advice, Maryalice! Fortunately I do enjoy my tea!

  • Kathy Townsend replied to [Learner left FutureLearn]

    We are so pleased to hear Joanne! Thanks for the positive feedback!

  • Thanks for that Jo! Your feedback genuinely means a lot to us. Your encouragement means that we are genuinely looking at producing more courses in the future. Watch this space!

  • This is the thing I have been most impressed with Hamish. While I am very pleased that the students enjoyed the course, it makes me so happy that so many of you have connected throughout the four week course. Honestly, this is where real learning happens. When ideas and concepts can be discussed and debated. A personal thank you from me, Hamish, for being so...

  • We are so pleased you enjoyed it Renate! Thank you for the feedback! And you are right, not all is lost. Together we can create change!

  • We completely agree Vicki! We could just throw our hands up in the air and give up, but that is so very unproductive. Particularly since many of the solutions are at our fingertips, we just need to implement them. We just need to work together with like-minded people!

  • I am so pleased you enjoyed it Barbara! I remember you telling us at the start of the course that you were joining so you could get a better understanding of what your granddaughter was studying at University. Hopefully this has provided the start of many interesting conversations between the two of you! Maybe we will see the two of you out here in Australia...

  • We are so pleased to hear Charlotte! Thank you for joining us on this journey!

  • I love it Bob! I think from now on we shall refer to ourselves as the "Sunshine People"! So pleased to hear you enjoyed the course AND convinced Liora to join as well!

  • Thank you for the wonderful feedback Liora! We are all so pleased that Bob and yourself enjoyed it. It really was a labour of love. All of the academics had an opportunity to talk about the things they are passionate about. That comes through in the videos and the rest of the content. Keep an eye on this space as we are discussing creating new courses in the...

  • We would love to have you Michelle! Keep an eye on this space as there may be more courses to come in the future.

  • We are so pleased to hear that you enjoyed it Laith! Have a great day!

  • We are so pleased you enjoyed it, Shane. Thank you for joining us!

  • Thank you Suzana. Perhaps you can visit us one day down here in Australia!

  • This makes me so happy, not the compliments for the course (although, of course that makes me happy as well), but the fact that you - as the learners - have connected to each other along the way!

  • Apologies Gail and thank you for your feedback. While we did attempt to make sure that the transcripts matched the content, we obviously missed a few. We have now taken your feedback on board and have done a complete update of the subtitles. Once again, our deepest apologies.

  • Let us know if you enjoyed it Jill!

  • Kathy Townsend replied to [Learner left FutureLearn]

    We hope you enjoy it Joanne. It is lovely to see you here.

  • Hahaha. Nope! They were actually tortoises. They could pull their head into their shells.

  • How fortunate to see sperm whales!

  • I haven't thought about that book in years! It was a seminal book during my teenage years. Thanks for reminding me Hamish.

  • @HamishMorrison thank you for sharing that with our FutureLearn community. Many people from around the world have no idea that these sorts of things are happening across the planet. Unfortunately, companies from industrialised nations often take advantage of countries that have a decreased ability to care for their environment.

  • You are welcome Lee! Thanks for the feedback!

  • Hahaha. No he is not. He is rather stylised.

  • Thank you for sharing Maarten. Here in Australia, we have had yet another season of floods. With floodwaters reaching over 20m in some locations. Flooding towns and farmlands.

  • Welcome Vic! I hope you enjoy the course!

  • The pandemic has caused all sorts of new environmental impacts, including "new" types of waste entering the environment, such as surgical masks and gloves.

  • Excellent question Barbara! This will all become clear to you in week 4. :)

  • The key is education and passionate people such as yourself, Lee. I take the approach that people are not necessarily inherently "evil" but instead they are so wrapped up in their own lived experience that they simply don't think about it.

  • Living in tropical Queensland in Australia, we rarely see seals or sea lions, except for the occasional lost New Zealand Fur Seal that takes the wrong turn. :)

  • You are completely right Barbara. Here in Brisbane in Australia we have a program called "Healthy Waterways" which sounds very similar. Bringing together all of the stakeholders that impact the local catchment, which ultimately runs into Moreton Bay and to the sea.

  • I hope you enjoy it as much as we enjoyed making it! See you throughout the course!

  • Hey Tracey, You are in our back yard! I take students to Bribie passage every year to study the shorebirds, sea turtles and dugong! I hope you enjoy the course!

  • I am glad you are asking questions Lee! That is the best way to learn.

  • They are the puppy dogs of the sea!

  • I hear you! My absolute favourite place to be is under the sea. I joke that the only plastic surgery I would ever consider would be to get gills. :D

  • You are not wrong there, Barbara. While it is great that people get excited to see animals in the wild, we have to make sure we don't end up destroying what we love.

  • It sounds like you have a deep and lasting connection with the sea. I know where you are coming from! Me too! :D

  • Although you have not witnessed lots of marine animals, I have to say that elephant seals are one of the coolest! Very few people have had the opportunity to see them in their native habitat.

  • Galapagos is truely a special place. You are so fortunate to have visited there.

  • Poor pufferfish. :(