Hazardous Substances Applications Advisor Karla Ellicock

My background is in ecology – studying how organisms interact with one another and with their environment. It’s all about connections.

Photo of Hazardous Substances Applications Advisor Karla EllicockOne of my earliest memories of science was at primary school, where we had to create a poster and map a food web that included whales. This experience taught me that each connection in the food web is reliant on another. It sparked my interest in the natural world and led me to complete a double major in ecology and marine biology.

What I love about these connections is that they are all interdependent. If one is broken or altered in an ecosystem, it can have widespread effects. Humans are not separate from the connections in the natural world. Our economy, wellbeing, and way of life are all connected to the environment from the food on our plates to the air that we breathe.

The work we do creates connections between global treaties and the average New Zealander: from government-led policies to the tūī singing in the trees.

Our team implements and regulates New Zealand’s legislation, which is connected to UN conventions such as the Montreal Protocol (an international treaty designed to protect the ozone layer by phasing out substances that are responsible for ozone depletion).

As countries across the world work together, we are now seeing that our combined efforts are working: the ozone layer is beginning to heal.

Without the international community coming together in the 1980s, life on Earth today could look very different. Before the current evidence of the ozone layer healing, NASA had calculated that by 2040 the ozone hole would have been global, and UV radiation in latitudes similar to Washington DC would have been strong enough to cause sunburn in just five minutes.

The Montreal Protocol is tangible evidence that humanity can work together to create positive impacts. And, like the team here at the EPA, it plays an important part in improving life on our planet. If we can connect with those around us and with the natural world, everyone of us can make an impact.