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.
I defended and submitted my PhD dissertation, “Marine microplastic pollution: An interdisciplinary approach to understanding the effects on organisms, ecosystems, and policy.” I officially have a PhD in Biology with a concentration in Public Policy from University of Washington!
I am now the Microplastic Postdoctoral Fellow at the Seattle Aquarium (as of October). I am thrilled to develop and expand the aquarium’s anthropogenic research program in the Salish Sea, WA. While it is a bit odd to start a job during a pandemic, I have thoroughly enjoyed the conservation programs and partnership team and all of the work I have done so far.
I am mentoring two wonderful youth leaders through Plastic Tides, an organization seeking to “inspire and catalyze action toward a plastic-free future through adventure, education, and youth empowerment.” I am mentoring John, a junior from Lima, Peru, and Naomi, a senior from New York, USA.
John is conducting a research project measuring plastic accumulation on Marquez beach, one of the most polluted beaches in Peru. He is planning to use his findings to change local policies surrounding plastic disposal and pollution in Peru.
Naomi is carrying out a series of PPE collections in New York City, in order to reduce the increased PPE pollution during Covid-19. She is planning to implement collections in her school as well as building communities.
Read about plastic pollution, where it comes from, where it goes, and what we can do. In the middle of a pandemic and human rights movement, it’s hard to think about anything else, however, we must keep learning and moving forward. This article compiles a lot of information succinctly.
Life in plastic, not fantastic
Microplastics are pieces of plastic less than 5 millimeters long.
Nanoplastics are even smaller at less than 100 nanometers in length.
People can ingest and inhale these plastic particles from food, water and air.
Researchers are studying whether the plastic pieces and toxicants on them can harm your health.
To help the problem, think about buying less single-use plastic and supporting sustainable businesses.
I was invited to present and host a Q&A for Microplastic Madness, a feature film at the Seattle Children’s Film Festival. The theater was packed with all ages, ready to learn about how a 5th grade class in Brooklyn, NY is tackling the plastic problem.
I can honestly say that this is one of the best and informative films I have ever seen. Cafeteria Culture, an organization focused on engaging youth to achieve zero waste, produced this film with students from P.S. 15 Brooklyn 5th graders. The film is traveling around the United States as part of the Children’s film festival circuit– definitely check it out if it is coming to a city near you!
The students did a phenomenal job explaining the ins and outs of plastic pollution, from the production to consumer sides. The took the viewer along for field trips, class experiments, and even to City Hall to speak with Mayor de Blasio. These students enacted real change in their school, their homes, and even across New York City.