It’s a wrap: PhD student dons rapper persona to compose song about plastic pollution

A music video raising awareness about plastic pollution demonstrates that effective science communication comes in many forms. 

It was a flash of inspiration during a conference that became a full-fledged rap music video – complete with lobster and turtle back-up dancers.  

Jessica Merrett is a PhD student at the Evolution and Ecology Research Centre at UNSW Science, studying the impact and distribution of plastic debris on the beaches in Sydney Harbour. In particular, she is investigating how small creatures living in the sand called amphipods are affected by this new artificial addition to their habitat. 

Jessica has always been interested in science communication and social outreach. But it wasn’t until she attended the International conference of marine biodiversity in Montreal that her science communication skills, research topic and a personal interest in rap crossed paths in an unexpected way. 

 “It was a talk during a conference that inspired me to think about different ways to communicate to the audience,” says Jessica. 

“At the conference dinner I said, ‘If I was to do it, I would do a rap’.”

Fuelled by the encouragement of her peers and a passion for reducing single use plastic, Jessica proceeded to compose and perform on the spot a rap about plastic pollution. The 10-stanza song, complete with rhyming couplets and puns would go on to be titled ‘The single-use plastic rap’ 

She performed the rap in the 2018 UNSW School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences (BEES) Three Minute Thesis competition.  

The rap demonstrates how science communication can be engaging the general public in many forms. The music video was filmed at Coogee Beach and Jessica was accompanied by fellow marine biology researchers and students who provided support as back-up dancers. Most of the props were constructed from plastic debris Jessica found during field-work. This included a fish with bottle caps for scales and fins made from plastic straws and a crayfish pot. 

You can watch Jessica ‘Plastic (w)rapper’ Merrett’s song about reducing single-use plastics: