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Tamara Galloway presenting at PPSS workshop in Lima
10/02/2022 Plastic pollution Women in science

Celebrating the women leading the fight against plastic pollution

Meet some of the women leading the way towards an ocean free from plastic pollution.

Jess Howard

Pacific Plastics: Science to Solutions Project Manager

Following on from last year’s blog, this year we are celebrating some of the women leading the way towards an ocean free from plastic pollution.

Plastic pollution in the Eastern Pacific

Ocean plastic pollution is a global problem that can be seen and felt in all our blue spaces, reaching even as far as the remote Galapagos Islands. It has the capacity to endanger species, destabilise ecosystems, and threaten our health and livelihoods. Unfortunately, it’s a problem that’s getting worse.

Reducing the amount of plastic floating in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, the waters that surround Galapagos, requires holistic solutions on a regional scale. That’s why our Pacific Plastics: Science to Solutions (PPSS) project, funded by the Global Challenges Resource Fund, unites international scientists, communities, NGOs (including Galapagos Conservation Trust), industries and businesses to create a network of inspiring individuals that are joining forces to find innovative, creative and effective solutions.

Green turtle entangled in plastic
Galapagos green turtle entangled in plastic © Jonathan Green

Women in plastic

Working with experts across a variety of fields, we’ve noticed something to celebrate: many of the inspiring change-makers spearheading our PPSS network are women.

Women are consistently under-represented in scientific leadership and decision-making roles in the marine conservation field, as well as the wider STEM subjects.

Here are just a few of the exceptional women forging the path towards an ocean free from plastic pollution.

Prof Tamara Galloway

Professor Tamara Galloway– University of Exeter, UK

Tamara is the PPSS project leader,and her research focusses on the environmental and human health effects of pollutants. Her work played a crucial role in the recent banning of microbeads from cosmetics and cleaning products – saving tonnes of plastic being flushed into the ocean. As if all that wasn’t enough, Tamara has also been appointed OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List.

Dr Ceri Lewis – University of Exeter, UK

Ceri is our co-Principal Investigator, and an Associate Professor in Marine Biology. She has led many field-based campaigns to study plastic pollution, establishing international projects from the Arctic to the Galapagos Islands. Her research focuses on 2 main areas; 1) biological impacts of microplastics on marine invertebrates, and 2) the interactions between chronic pollution and ocean acidification on marine invertebrates. Ceri has also been short-listed for a 2014 WISE award for her outreach work which has reached >3.5 million children worldwide.

Joanna Alfaro

Dr Joanna Alfaro-Shigueto – Universidad Científica del Sur, Peru

Joanna is the director and co-founder of ProDelphinus, a non-profit organisation in Peru that works with fishing communities, scientists and the government to protect marine wildlife. Joanna specialises is sea turtles, and is a member of the IUCN Marine Turtle Specialist Group. Alongside this, Joanna is also a Professor at the Universidad Científica del Sur, and has contributed to over 100 publications. She has won several awards including the Whitley Award, and most recently Peru’s Carlos Ponce Award.

Mariana Vera-Zambrano

Mariana Vera-Zambrano – Conservation International, Ecuador

Mariana manages the Galapagos Coastal Clean-up initiative, a joint venture between Conservation International Ecuador, the Ministry of Environment, the Galapagos National Park and the Coca-Cola Foundation. The project has been incredibly successful so far, and removed 7.6 tonnes of garbage and 39,105 plastic bottles in 2019 alone. The project also aims to tackle how people think about, use and dispose of plastics at the local level. “It is only by addressing the root of the plastics problem that we will be able to restore beaches and marine life to a similar state which Darwin witnessed almost 200 years ago.” – Mariana.

Dr Stefanie Ypma

Dr Stefanie Ypma – University of Utrecht, Netherlands

Stefanie is a Physical Oceanographer at Utrecht University, working as a postdoctoral researcher on the Galapagos Plastic Free Project, modelling the pathways of marine plastic near Galapagos. These findings will help develop a ‘marine plastics forecast’, giving local park rangers a clean-up tool that can predict where and when plastic will accumulate. The aim is to show that the methods developed for Galapagos can be applied to island nations and archipelagos worldwide to tackle the global plastic pollution challenge.

This is just a snapshot of some of the remarkable women working with us to tackle the plastic pollution crisis through the Pacific Plastics: Science to Solutions (PPSS) network which includes our Plastic Pollution Free Galapagos Programme.

Pacific Plastics: Science to Solutions

Pacific Plastics: Science to Solutions is a network of world-class scientists working together with NGOs and governmental agencies to free the Eastern Pacific from ocean plastic.

Learn more

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