This September I travelled to the Republic of Korea to attend the 7th International Marine Debris Conference and present research on innovative approaches to assessing plastics and bioplastics in marine environments.
This was my first time in Korea, so I took some extra time before the conference to explore Seoul and Jeonju before heading to Busan for the event. For anyone who hasn’t been, add Korea to the TOP of your list! It is a beautiful country with amazing food, kind people, and excellent public transportation. I am already planning my trip back!
I had been looking forward to this conference for the past 4 years, since the 6th IMDC in San Diego, USA. The conference was large and a little overwhelming at first – how could I choose which talks to attend? They all sounded amazing. This is the first conference I have been to where I found myself hard pressed to decide between sessions because I wanted to listen and absorb all of the information available. I felt like I finally found my people after years of attending more ecology-focused conferences.
I am so lucky to have met and connected with people from around the world who share a similar interest in mitigating and preventing marine debris. I cant wait till next time.
Writer Lisa Stiffler watched the initial deployment of the TOM FORD Plastic Innovation Prize back in April then came to visit again during the 4month sampling point a few weeks ago. It was a pleasure to speak with her and describe the neat science going on at the Seattle Aquarium. Lisa recently published an article on Geek Wire about the prize and the Aquarium– check it out!
I recently had the pleasure to speak with Kelly Koopmans at KOMO news about marine microplastics and other debris in the Salish Sea/Puget Sound region. Kelly visited the Seattle Aquarium, spending a few hours in the lab asking questions and getting to see the research happen.
I had an absolute blast filming KCTS Human Elements S2 E6: The plastics in everything with KCTS and Crosscut. The episode aired March 31, 2022 and is available online here. This was my first filmed interview and I am absolutely stoked with how well it turned out. Plastic pollution can be a depressing field of study, however, it is vital to communicate how dire the situation is. The team at Crosscut did a phenomenal job realistically portraying me and the field I study while also managing to film beautiful plastic pollution shots.
I had the pleasure to discuss my microplastics research with Bellamy Pailthorp at KNKX Public Radio. The episode aired Feb 7th 20222 and I got to hear it while driving down Baja Mexico– A truly unique experience! Take a listen here.
The final chapter of my dissertation, “Spatial–Temporal Growth, Distribution, and Diffusion of Marine Microplastic Research and National Plastic Policies,” was published in Water, Air, and Soil Pollution! This chapter was the result of a pivot during the last year of my PhD– when campus and all associated facilities shut down due to Covid-19, I was forced to put lab work on the back burner and was instead given the “opportunity” to embrace a side project as my final dissertation chapter. I completed a concentration in Public Policy and Management at the Evens School of Public Policy at UW, providing a backbone to this idea. While the paper itself does not answer all of the questions (but what paper does?) it provides insight to how incredible FAST the scientific field of marine microplastics is growing and how its growth differs from national plastic policies. Working with a massive dataset and seemingly endless questions, our results are nuanced and invite further examination.
The best part of this publication was working with an amazing team of undergraduates during data acquisition and wrangling. One particular student, Jackson Fennell, used his GIS skills to create maps and hotspot analyses. This is his FIRST academic publication and I am so proud. What an accomplishment to have undergrad work in a peer-reviewed journal!
The first publication of my job at the Aquarium as well as their first microplastic research paper is out now! An exciting story of long-term monitoring, unexpected results, and a surprising impact of Covid-19! This article was written by all women(!!!!) at different career stages including: volunteer, lab technician, master’s student, PhD student, academic faculty, and long-term conservation researcher.
Interested? Read more here! The article is open access and we hope everyone has an opportunity to (at least) skim it.
The publication garnered some attention from the journal and SETAC Globe highlighted our research in their publication spotlight. The piece interviews me and highlights our volunteer program– read it here!
Additionally, the I wrote a blog post for the Seattle Aquarium highlighting the study and interesting things we took away from our findings. Read more about that here!
In the late spring and early summer I had the opportunity to present my research on marine pollution to students at two different universities. In the spring I spoke to masters students in the Conservation and Restoration Science program at University of California Irvine (UCI) discussing the broader field of marine plastic pollution, how to study it, policy implications, and how difficult large scale mitigation can be. In the summer I spoke to undergraduate students taking Civilization Biology at University of Washington (UW) about the ocean, over fishing, sustainable methods, and a whole ecosystem approach to aquaculture. I love teaching and hope to have more opportunities to do so in the future.
I had the privilege to host the second annual Pacific Northwest (PNW) Microplastics Workshop (the first was held in October 2019) May 12, 2021, 9am-1pm virtually with the Seattle Aquarium. It served as an opportunity to reengage researchers and organizations in the community. The field of marine microplastics is rapidly developing, and researchers in the Pacific Northwest area have long called for regional and local communities to approach the multifaceted topic.
Unfortunately during the past year, the global COVID-19 pandemic affected peoples’ lives in a variety of ways, often isolating folks, both personally and professionally, due to lockdowns, safety, and health concerns. To reignite and strengthen community in the region, the second annual workshop was virtual and focused specifically on research done in and around the Salish Sea, Washington.
Attendees included over 50 individuals from more than 15 organizations within Washington, Oregon, California and British Columbia.
Researchers gave presentations spanning four topics:
1) particles in the environment
2) organismal contamination
3) holistic and ecosystem approaches
4) regional engagement
Community resources and resource limitations were core topics that resurfaced throughout both the first and second annual PNW Microplastics Workshop presentations and discussions. The Seattle Aquarium collected information on available resources in the area for community members to use to strengthen relationships and collaborations within our community.
Hot off the press: Microplastic changes the sinking and resuspension rates of marine mussel biodeposits, published in Marine Pollution Bulletin. This is the second chapter of my PhD dissertation and work that I did with three amazing undergraduates while at UW Biology. Harsimran Gill, a co-author, was one of those undergrads and this is his first paper.