Jessica Carrier with her fiance Michael Flowers. Photo courtesy Jessica Carrier

Jessica Carrier with her fiance Michael Flowers. Photo courtesy Jessica Carrier

Over the weekend, I caught up with Jessica Carrier to learn more about an Olle trail trash study she recently created. During the month of March she will scour our beloved Olle trails to document the locations and kinds of trash she encounters via an interactive map with Google Earth. Carrier is a 25-year-old native of Columbus, Ohio and a high school chemistry teacher at Korea International School Jeju (KIS). She is pursuing her Master’s of Arts in Teaching (MAT) through a Web-based program offered by Miami University located in Oxford, Ohio. Carrier arrived to the island in January with her fiance, Michael Flowers, who helps collect data for her research and plans to begin work as a dive instructor in the spring. Over brunch at Winnie’s Café in Jeju City we discussed all things Olle, garbage, and her aim to apply her passion for environmental protection to draw a connection between the location of trash on Olle trails and contributing factors to this problem. With her findings she will seek out a solution to the issue in hopes of improving the condition of our trails. Read on to learn more about her investigation and how you can contribute to her efforts by carrying a simple notepad on a leisurely walk.

What did you do before coming to Jeju?
I was teaching genetics and ecology in a suburb of Columbus, then I got a temporary job working in the Bahamas at a field station. There I was working as an education director and doing some research for my Master’s program.

What brought you to Jeju?
I found out about international teaching while in my Master’s program. I went to Belize for a week and it was about half teachers, half informal educators who work for zoos and marine parks. One of the teachers there had worked through International School Services (ISS) which is an agency that places American teachers abroad. As I was telling her about my love of traveling and teaching she said, “you really should think about international education.” So I signed up with ISS and through them KIS contacted me because they were in need of a teacher.

How has it been transitioning to the island?
It’s been an easy transition for the most part because we love getting to know people from other cultures and other places in the world. It’s been really exciting for us, and the school that I’m at is fantastic. The kids are great. They’ve made it easy for me for sure. So far we’ve enjoyed trying the different foods and we’re still learning the language, but classes start next month for that.

How did you first learn about the Olle trails?
We knew that Jeju was one of the New7Wonders of Nature and that it was an island. We love the ocean, so we were really excited for that aspect. I had researched a little bit and saw Jeju is trying to be carbon free by 2030 and they have a lot of great ecological things going on here. We didn’t know much about the Olle trails, but when we got here on one of our first days our neighbors told us about the oreums and the Olle trails. It just seemed like such a cool way to really connect with the island since they’re so accessible. I did my first Olle trail last week (Olle 14-1 near O’sulloc) it was just absolutely beautiful.

Could you tell me more about your Master’s Program?
It’s a Master of Arts in Teaching in global field studies, a brand new program through Miami University. The focus of it is global conservation and global understanding for ecology, so it’s tailored to your personal interests. My focus started out as inquiry education looking at getting kids in the field and connecting with nature and science in a real world way, but now my focus is more on conservation education in the global community. It’s kind of taken a turn through my trip here to Jeju. My new experiences have allowed me a lot of different ways to think about the program.

Jessica on Olle 14-1 near O'sulloc

Jessica on Olle 14-1 near O’sulloc. Photo courtesy Jessica Carrier

How did you decide on the Olle trails for the focus of your study?
Our study is for my “biology in the age of technology” class. We’re learning about technology being used in conservation and conservation awareness. The goal of the project is to make what’s called an “eco spot,” it’s sort of like a public service announcement in relation to conservation. I’m really impressed with all of the recycling and composting that goes on here, so I wanted to bring about awareness to the community as far as ways they can help continue the efforts of the Jeju government. I was trying to think of ways to incorporate technology and look at different things happening on the island and I had heard people talking about Olle trail clean ups at the school [KIS]. They go and clean up, especially along the coast, a lot of the trash. I started to think about where the trash could be coming from and wonder if it’s more common in certain areas close to the city or around the coast. I decided to create a Google Earth interactive map to map out where the trash is and where the recycling centers are and draw connections by using technology to gather and analyze that information to make my “eco spot,” which will be a way for the community to hear about the Olle trails and what’s going on there. So, that’s the end goal and will be in April when I release that information.

What sort of results do you expect to find?
I’m expecting to see more debris along the coast especially with all of the neighboring countries around us. When trash gets washed into the water it’s only natural that it ends up somewhere else. So in my experiences of other islands a lot of the trash that gets washed up on the beaches is not even from the island itself. I’m expecting to see quite a bit along the coastal parts, but I’m not exactly sure what kind of trash I’ll find. That’s what I’m most excited to find out. If I find a certain type of trash that’s prevalent, I’ll be able to focus my community outreach in that way.

What is the purpose in documenting your findings on Google Maps?
I’ve been trying to get GPS coordinates from different places on the trails where I find trash. Google Earth has really cool features that let’s you create your own points and add pictures, captions or videos, so I’m going to be able to take a lot of that data and map it out. My end “eco spot” will be an interactive version of that where you can go through and look at where the different recycling centers are, where different types of trash were found and hopefully have a resulting message to help promote people to keep the trails clean and encourage them to do their part for the environment here on the island.

How long do you plan to continue your study?
It’s going to be a small part of a larger project, my master’s capstone, which I’m still in the process of developing. It will probably go into conservation in a global sense, so I’ll look at how different communities teach conservation education. I’ll be looking at different ways to better educate the community and tourists about things that are going on here. The Olle trail study will be going until the beginning of April. I’ll be going every week and looking at the different trails, but then hopefully it will continue and grow and be added to part of something bigger next year.

How can the community get involved?
The best way would be to check out my Facebook page.

Since lots of people are on the Olle trails, I figured if I can’t make it to every single one maybe I can connect with the community and get information from them as well. If they find themselves going out to an Olle trail, they could take a small note pad (or people who have smart phones can take pictures and a lot of smartphones will actually locate the GPS coordinates), but if they know generally where they found the trash along the trail they can put anecdotal notes; for example: what kind of trash was it, how much was there, was it toward the beginning of the trail, end of the trail, were you on a beach, etc. Those sorts of facts can really help me because I can add that to my Google Earth map.

Jeju World Wide will follow-up on this story after the study finishes at the end of March.

For all the Jeju Olle trail starting points, click here and scroll down to the second map. — Ed.

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