Rebecca Olive — Researcher Spotlight

Rebecca Olive and Moving Oceans
Recent years have seen a growing awareness of the importance of healthy oceans for human health, and the health of the planet. At the same time, people increasingly and passionately describe how being in and around oceans and coasts is good for their body, mind and spirit. Our responses to pandemic lockdowns have highlighted the importance of access to blue and green nature spaces, and record numbers of people have taken up sports like ocean swimming and surfing. Moving Oceans engages with these connections by focusing on the intersections of human-ocean health and wellbeing. The project focuses on sport, physical activities and leisure practices, and how these are key ways we experience and interact with both our personal health and wellbeing, and with the health and wellbeing of coastal and ocean ecologies.

My work with Moving Oceans is interested in how sports and leisure shape our relationships to ocean and coastal ecologies, and the practices of care we develop for them. It considers how human-ocean health is ecological, relational, ethical, dangerous, and polluted and polluting. Our knowledge of is shaped by the saltwater plants, animals, geographies and climates we encounter as we swim and surf. These immersive encounters change our understanding of ecologies, but they also change our bodies, including our mental health, microbiomes, and contact with pollution. When we swim and surf, the interconnections of human-ocean health are not just ideas, but are absorbed into our skin, slosh into our mouths, seep into our guts. Moving Oceans explores how, through sport, we soak in the feeling of how human health and wellbeing is contingent on the health and wellbeing of the multispecies planet we live on.
Rebecca Olive is an ARC DECRA in the School of Human Movement & Nutrition Sciences at The University of Queensland. Rebecca’s feminist cultural studies work explores everyday experiences of sport and physical activity, especially lifestyle sports like swimming and surfing. She has focused on women’s participation in surfing, but her current project looks at how sports shape our experiences of the intersections between human and environmental health and wellbeing. As well as scholarly publications, Rebecca publishes in surfing media and is a Research Fellow with AustLit.