Kerry Carlin-Morgan has always cared deeply about wildlife. From a young age, she was passionate about animals and had concern for what was impacting them. She always loved zoos and aquariums and her parents indulged her passions by taking her to every zoo or aquarium in the cities they were visiting.
It’s no real surprise that after earning her PHD in Science Education from University of Florida, she started doing wildlife education at zoos, aquariums and museums across the country. Eventually, she found herself at the Oregon Coast Aquarium as the Director of Education, a position she’s held for the past 12 years.
“My passion and drive are to save the world for wildlife and ecosystems, and in the process save ourselves.”
A few years ago, the education staff at the aquarium sat down and said, “we can’t do everything, so what are we going to focus on?” They decided to focus on the things that seemed to be having the biggest, broadest impact, especially on the Oregon coast. The issues they picked? Climate change, sustainable fishing and plastic pollution.
“Plastic is ubiquitous, it’s everywhere. And plastic is forever. It does not ever go away, and we are just scratching the surface of understanding the impacts. Our consumerism, throw-away society is a real issue in this country and we really need to re-think our relationship to stuff and to animals, so we don’t lose our connection to nature.”
In addition to developing education curriculum, the Aquarium has taken steps internally to tackle their own plastic footprint. They put in water refill stations and got rid of plastic water bottles, have moved away from plastic cutlery and plates in their café and have instituted a “straws upon request” policy, which are now all paper.
“With any issue that has such a big impact on the environment, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. But you just have to start with one small thing and go from there. It’s a continuous evolution. You won’t get rid of every single piece of plastic in your life tomorrow, you might forget your reusable bag at the grocery store, but remember that it’s a long-term process. Don’t get frustrated and think that you aren’t making a difference because you are if you are working towards it.”