The Making of a Marine Naturalist: Meet Erin Hord

Our Marine Naturalists at Pacific Whale Foundation are so much more than boat crew. Each member of our marine education team has a unique background and brings a variety of knowledge and experiences. We love highlighting the uniqueness that each of our Naturalists brings to the boat, and diving deeper into their passion for the ocean. We’ll be highlighting a new crew member each month. As our whalewatching season continues in full swing here in Hervey Bay, we’re thrilled to introduce Erin Hord.


Hi Erin! Whereabouts are you from? 

I was born in Miami, Florida, but I have lived the majority of my life thus far in Madison, Ohio.

What is your first memory of the ocean?

I think my first vivid memory of the ocean was when I was 8 years old and the ocean was flooding the street outside my family’s apartment building because of a tropical storm. That obviously didn’t deter me from ending up in a Marine Biology career though!

What drew you to work for Pacific Whale Foundation?

I was drawn to work for Pacific Whale Foundation because I absolutely love watching
whales in their natural habitat and working to protect the oceans they dwell in.

What experiences and education prepared you for your journey to becoming a Marine Naturalist?

I went to a small liberal arts college where the opportunities to get involved in my future career were endless. I received my Bachelor’s degree in Biology and Marine Science, and I was able to study at the Duke University Marine Lab and have immersive marine science courses in the Bahamas, Puerto Rico, and St. Croix. I think the experience that helped most with my journey to becoming a Marine Naturalist was my summer internship with the Blue Ocean Society for Marine Conservation, based in New Hampshire. I was an education and research intern aboard whale watch vessels, which really helped ignite my passion for marine mammal conservation.

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PWF Marine Debris Action Plan Partnership

In concert with our core research, education and conservation work focused on marine mammals, Pacific Whale Foundation began to research marine debris in 2013 when we noticed how much floating trash we were encountering during whale and dolphin surveys. By conducting formal research studies we strive to understand the types and amounts of debris that are impacting Maui coasts and marine resources, as well as closely monitor the effects of education, policy and outreach on reducing marine debris. This prevalence of debris in our oceans and along our coasts has enormous impacts on marine life, including marine mammals – making the issue essential to our work.

In August 2018, Mark Manuel, the Pacific Islands Marine Debris Regional Coordinator, invited Pacific Whale Foundation to participate in a statewide working group evaluating the progress made in Hawaii since a plan was last revised in 2016. Supported by NOAA’s Marine Debris Program, the group first convened in 2008 and brought together 30 representatives from government, academia, nongovernmental organizations and private businesses to prioritize marine debris issues specific to Hawaii. Over time, 48 organizations developed the Hawai‘i Marine Debris Action Plan, which established a comprehensive framework for strategic action to reduce the ecological, health and safety, and economic impacts of marine debris in Hawai‘i from 2016 through 2020.

Goals of the Plan:

  • Reduce sources of marine debris through prevention
  • Reduce the amount and impacts of ocean-based marine debris
  • Support and sustain marine debris removal
  • Increase capacity to address abandoned and derelict vessels (ADVs)
  • Conduct high quality research to understand marine debris

During the August 2018 Oahu-based meeting, each of the 30 participating organizations reported progress made towards achieving these goals and then worked collaboratively revise the Action Plan for the next 2 years, creating ways that each can work together to tackle the most pressing issues facing Hawaii.

Pacific Whale Foundation’s marine debris work provided significant progress towards achieving the goals outlined in the 2016 plan and was among the top contributing organizations of the original 48 that helped to develop the plan, along with the NOAA Marine Debris Program, Surfrider Foundation, 808 Cleanups and Hawaii Wildlife Fund. We are actively working towards 4 of the 5 goals through our continued land and at-sea marine debris research, as well as our ongoing education and outreach initiatives.

“To find effective solutions to Hawaii’s marine debris problem will require all stakeholders such as governments, NGOs, academia, the private sector, and the public to work together,” remarks Pacific Whale Foundation Senior Research Analyst Jens Currie, “Marine debris accumulation is a multi-step process and PWF is focusing their efforts on understanding the “end of the line” impacts on our oceans and marine life. We want to address the issue at the source, so we can work towards effective solutions. Being included in this statewide consortium allows us to work with other organizations to target larger audiences to ensure our findings are impacting change.”

Pacific Whale Foundation has dedicated substantial resources to better understand the impact that marine debris poses to Hawaii. In addition to maintaining removal efforts, we strive to leverage these opportunities for data collection and scientific research. Working closely with the NOAA Marine Debris Program, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the University of Hawaii at Manoa, we are producing the scientific research needed to assess and evaluate impactful legislative decisions and mitigation measures.

To make a donation in support of this important work, please visit https://www.pacificwhale.org/you-can-help/make-donation/.

Have a group interested in making a difference with a beach cleanup activity? Sponsor a 2-3 hour event; we will provide coastal marine debris monitoring program kits, research and conservation experts, transportation and any coordination you need. Contact us

The Last Straw Art Sculpture, “From the Artist”

Meet Rachael Lallo, one of our talented graphic designers in the Pacific Whale Foundation marketing department.

Rachael worked long and hard to design the Last Straw Campaign that launched on World Oceans Day in June. The Last Straw is our conservation campaign to raise awareness about single-use plastics, focusing on plastic drinking straws. Rachael was on a creative streak and decided to use her artistic talents to create a sculpture using 5,200 individual straws and working for a total of 65 hours to create this focal point for plastic straw awareness.

Rachael Lallo: “This was a big project. Of course I couldn’t create a simple easy piece, ha ha! Being the artist I am, I wanted to make something that would be impactful and have the power to make a difference. I wanted the piece to educate people in an instant about the overpowering global issue of marine debris and debris in general. I remember being educated in grade school about other types of conservation, but now a fast shift is being made to focus on the overwhelming and alarming issue of marine debris. We’re needing to put out our own fires. This issue has grown so fast and wild that it’s consuming our planet. It’s obviously a huge threat and it feels that we’ve only recently realized it. But it’s never too late to make a change.

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