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Plastic Pollution Working Group Members

Lisa Campbell

Lisa Campbell

Rachel Carson Distinguished Professor of Marine Affairs & Policy
Marine Science & Conservation Division, Nicholas School of the Environment
Email 

Dr. Campbell is broadly interested in oceans governance and the role of state and non-state actors in negotiating ocean governance priorities. With a group of collaborators, she has been tracking the emerging agenda for global oceans governance over the last decade, through organizations like the Convention and Biological Diversity and the UN Sustainable Development Commission. In this context, Dr. Campbell is interested in how plastic pollution emerged and rose to the top of the list of marine conservation concerns among some NGOs and the public, the coalitions that worked to promote it as a priority and the funders who rallied to support, and the science that informs it.

Charlotte Clark

Charlotte Clark

Assistant Professor of the Practice of Sustainability
Environmental Sciences & Policy Division, Nicholas School of the Environment
Email 
Liz DeMattia

Liz DeMattia

Research Scientist/Director Community Science Initiative/Duke Marine Lab
Email 

I am an ecologist interested in the intersection of science and community. I am currently working on issues of plastic pollution education from a marine debris perspective and a stormwater/microplastic perspective. I have written curricula regarding marine debris (elementary) and community science and microplastics (high school) and collaborate with researchers at the EE lab of NCSU to study the role of intergenerational learning in changing perspectives on plastic pollution.

Kids’ Presentations Sway Local Leaders’ and Voters’ Attitudes on Ocean Plastics Pollution (article)

Q&A: MEM Students Discuss Why They Got Involved in STEM Education Outreach (article)

Duke Marine Lab Science Outreach With Boys & Girls Club (YouTube video)

Duke Marine Lab Community Science Program on Twitter: Twitterdumlcommunity

Marc Deshusses

Marc Deshusses

Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Pratt School of Engineering
Email 

The Deshusses lab works on the development and optimization of novel processes for waste treatment and conversion of waste to energy. We are interested in the treatment of microplastics (e.g., in sludges or biosolids) or the conversion of non-recyclable plastics wastes to energy in sustainable and high intensity processes.

Richard Di Giulio

Richard Di Giulio

Sally Kleberg Distinguished Professor of Environmental Toxicology
Environmental Sciences & Policy Division and Marine Science & Conservation Division, Nicholas School of the Environment
Email 

Dr. Di Giulio’s lab has been studying the effects of nanoplastics in the zebrafish model (Danio rerio). Recent studies have included maternal transfers to embryos, effects on embryonic development, effects on energetics in embryos and adults, underlying mechanisms for observed effects, and interactions with other marine pollutants such as hydrocarbons and with other stressors (e.g., elevated temperature and hypoxia). More broadly, he is interested in marine pollutants as evolutionary drivers and associated fitness costs. These studies focus on the estuarine Atlantic killifish (Fundulus heteroclitus).

Meagan Dunphy-Daly

Meagan Dunphy-Daly

Lecturing Fellow, Duke University Scholars Program Director
Marine Science and Conservation, Nicholas School of the Environment
Email 

Dr. Dunphy-Daly’s research focuses on the role of policy and technology in reducing marine plastic pollution. She is interested in how regulations for other pollutants have led to improved technology and how we can apply these frameworks to the plastic pollution pandemic. Dr. Dunphy-Daly co-lead a Bass Connections team on the bioremediation of plastic pollution to conserve marine biodiversity, and she works to engage students in research aimed at ways to reduce the human impact on our marine environment.

Lee Ferguson

Lee Ferguson

Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering, Pratt School of Engineering
Email 

Dr. Ferguson’s laboratory focuses on assessing release of polymer additives such as dyes, antioxidants, ultraviolet (UV) inhibitors, vulcanizing agents, and plasticizers from plastics and microplastics after release into the aquatic environment.  They are particularly interested in the chemical transformation and potential toxic effects of these additives in aquatic ecosystems.  The lab employs high-resolution mass spectrometry and optical spectroscopy methods to identify, quantify, and characterize both polymers and their component additives in the environment.

Kathinka Fürst

Kathinka Fürst

Faculty Fellow
Assistant Adjunct Professor of Environmental Policy, Duke Kunshan University
Email 

Dr. Fürst is taking the lead on a number of relevant issues at Duke Kunshan University. First, she is working with a group of students to do a China plastic policy analysis based on the methodology developed by Dr. John Virdin and Amy Pickle, J.D. and their team for the global plastic policy analysis. Second, she is trying to get a project (and funding) going focusing on opportunities and obstacles for China's new plastic economy. Dr. Fürst is now in the process of editing a special edition focusing on various aspects of plastic issues in China, which will be published in Chinese, and will likely be the first special edition drawing on a team of interdisciplinary contributors, dedicated to plastics, published in Chinese. And, last but not least, she has been developing and leading the Blue Pioneer Program at DKU, where a great number of participants work on plastic issues.

Claudia Gunsch

Claudia Gunsch

Theodore Kennedy Professor
Pratt School; Civil and Environmental Engineering
Email 

Our lab is interested in exploring the microbial ecological impacts of emerging contaminants and specifically the biodegradation of plastics in aquatic environments.

Evan Hepler-Smith

Evan Hepler-Smith

Andrew W. Mellon Assistant Professor of History
Department of History, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences
Email 

Evan Hepler-Smith is a historian of modern science and technology, specializing in the global history of chemistry, computing and information technology, and chemical dimensions of environmental health, regulation, and justice. His plastics-related research includes work on the naming and classification of polymers and microplastics, as well as on the "industrial metabolism" of plastics (i.e., production, distribution, use, disposal, environmental fate and transport). He teaches History 235, "Drugs, Chemicals and Health: Following substances through economies, environments, and bodies."

Heileen Hsu-Kim

Heileen Hsu-Kim

Sternberg Family Professor of Civil & Environmental Engineering, Pratt School of Engineering
Email 

Dr. Hsu-Kim’s team studies biogeochemical processes that affect the fate of trace metals in natural and engineered systems. A central theme to their work is the utilization of chemical speciation for understanding and predicting the persistence, mobility and bioavailability of metals and minerals in the aquatic environment. The team helps other researchers to look at trace metals associated with microplastics in plastic and animals that have consumed plastic.

Nishad Jayasundara

Nishad Jayasundara

Assistant Professor, Nicholas School of the Environment
Email 

We are interested in understanding effects of nano plastics on cellular and whole organismal energy production in teleost fish, especially in the presence of different environmental contaminants.

Michelle Nowlin

Michelle Nowlin

Clinical Professor of Law; Co-Director, Environmental Law and Policy Clinic
Duke Law School

Michelle’s research is focused on understanding the sources and impacts of plastic debris on aquatic and marine environments and human health, and developing policies and regulatory mechanisms to address and reduce those impacts.  Much of her client-based work focuses on mechanisms for upstream communities that reduce waste at the source.

Amy Pickle

Amy Pickle

Director, State Policy Program
Duke Law School, Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions
Email 

Amy Pickle, J.D. and Dr. John Virdin are interested in studying how governments have or can design effective public policy responses to the problem, including:

  • Empirical analysis of public policy responses in different contexts
  • Global monitoring and tracking of public policy responses and evidence for their effects
  • Translating public policy responses into projected reductions in mismanaged plastic waste

Additionally, they are interested in the role that large corporations can play in governance of plastics use, including:

  • Empirical analysis of large corporate responses to the plastic pollution problem and evidence for effects
  • How large corporations are organizing to address the problem
Andy Read NSOE

Andrew Read

Stephen A. Toth Professor of Marine Biology; Chair, Marine Science and Conservation Division; Director, Duke Marine Lab
Marine Science and Conservation Division
Email 

Dr. Read's research interests are in the conservation biology of long-lived marine vertebrates, particularly marine mammals, seabirds and sea turtles. Much of his current research documents the effects of human activities on populations of these species and attempts to find solutions to such conflicts. This work involves field work, experimentation and modeling. He is particularly interested in the development and application of new conservation tools. Dr. Read serves as a faculty contributor for the Bass Connections Team Bioremediation of Plastic Pollution to Conserve Marine Biodiversity.

Faculty photo of Professor Daniel Rittschof

Daniel Rittschof

Norman L. Christensen Distinguished Professor of Environmental Sciences
Marine Science & Conservation Division, Nicholas School of the Environment
Email 

Dr. Rittschof’s research is focused on the toxicology and physiological impacts on marine animals of molecules leaching from plastics, the flavors of plastics that cause plastics to be consumed, the impacts of consumption on animals eating plastic and the role of plastics as platforms for delivery of biologically active molecules to animals and for removal of biologically active molecules from animals. The lab’s goal is to inform policy and manufacturing processes.

Steve Roady

Steve Roady

Faculty Fellow
Professor of the Practice of Law, Duke School of Law
Email 

Professor Roady is a lawyer who has devoted more than four decades to protecting the environment in various courts and administrative agencies. His most recent work includes helping the Pew Charitable Trusts design a study to reduce the production and use of plastics world-wide. He assisted the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions with the preparation of a global survey for the United Nations that evaluated efforts to reduce plastic pollution of coral reefs. He is currently assisting with a student honors thesis that will examine ways to reduce plastic pollution in Hawaii.

Thomas Schultz

Thomas Schultz

Assistant Professor of the Practice of Marine Molecular Conservation; Director of Undergraduate Studies, MSC
Marine Science & Conservation Division
Email 
Jason Somarelli

Jason Somarelli

Assistant Professor in Medicine
School of Medicine
Email 

Dr. Somarelli’s team is trying tackle the plastic waste pandemic in the following ways: 1) developing new enzymes and microbial systems to biodegrade plastic, 2) using bioinformatics to identify enzymes with plastic degrading capability, 3) understanding the influence of plastic ingestion as a carrier of environmental toxins, and 4) engaging students in research aimed at improving societal understanding of humanity's negative impacts on the environment and human health.

Heather Stapleton

Heather Stapleton

Ronie-Richele Garcia-Johnson Distinguished Professor
Environmental Science & Policy Division, Nicholas School of the Environment
Email 

Dr. Stapleton’s research focuses primarily on identifying and evaluating human exposure to chemical additives in plastics. For example, plastics are often treated with chemicals to confer properties such as flame retardancy, anti-aging, and flexibility. These chemicals can be added to the plastics at levels up to 30% by weight, and many leach out over the lifetime of the product leading to exposure, for both wildlife (e.g. in the oceans), but also people (e.g. in the home).

Daniel Vallero

Daniel Vallero

Adjunct Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Pratt School of Engineering
Email 

Dr. Vallero’s research involves the development of modules to be part of models needed to conduct chemical exposure and risk assessments. These assessments are especially related to consumer products, articles and building materials. This includes classes of chemicals used to manufacture plastic products, including solvents and plasticizers. He also continues to conduct research on so-called "far-field models", i.e., environmental transport, transformation and fate models that estimate concentrations of chemical compounds after release into the environment. At Duke, Dr. Vallero is part of a team developing curriculum and research in engineering economics and ethics. His most recent contribution in this venue is a recent article in the American Society of Civil Engineering's Journal of Environmental Engineering: https://ascelibrary.org/doi/10.1061/%28ASCE%29EE.1943-7870.0001676

Daniel Vermeer

Daniel Vermeer

Executive Director, Center for Energy, Development, and the Global Environment
Fuqua School of Business
Email 

Dr. Vermeer is interested in potential for new technologies and business models that can profitably address wicked problems like plastic pollution. In the last year, one project team worked with WWF and Impact Hub to facilitate entrepreneurs developing plastic alternatives to connect with large industrial customers who could help scale successful innovations. He also works on seaweed production as a method for promoting carbon sequestration and local coastal community development. Finally, Dr. Vermeer is interested in ocean-related “bluetech hubs” and the role they play in accelerating new innovative ocean solutions to market.

John Virdin

John Virdin

Director, Ocean and Coastal Policy Program
Email 

Amy Pickle, J.D. and Dr. John Virdin are interested in studying how governments have or can design effective public policy responses to the problem, including:

  • Empirical analysis of public policy responses in different contexts
  • Global monitoring and tracking of public policy responses and evidence for their effects
  • Translating public policy responses into projected reductions in mismanaged plastic waste

Additionally, they are interested in the role that large corporations can play in governance of plastics use, including:

  • Empirical analysis of large corporate responses to the plastic pollution problem and evidence for effects
  • How large corporations are organizing to address the problem
Andrew West

Andrew West

Professor, Duke Center for Neurodegeneration Research & Departments of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology and Neurology
Duke University School of Medicine
Email 

The West laboratory has a developing interest I microplastic toxicity with respect to susceptibility and progression of neurodegenerative diseases. We hypothesize that the so-called primary-proteinopathies, in particular, may be precipitated or otherwise affected by microplastic exposures, either in neurodevelopment stages or accumulations in lifetime exposures. We are further interested in how microplastics might infiltrate or accumulate in the central nervous system and gut.

More broadly, our laboratory is focuses on identifying critical pathogenic mechanisms underlying neurological diseases like Parkinson’s disease with the goal of developing new therapeutics to block disease progression.

Mark Wiesner

Mark Wiesner

James B. Duke Distinguished Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Pratt School of Engineering
Email 

The Wiesner plastic group focuses on how polymers break down via mechanical abrasion, nano-fillers in plastics (nanocomposites) and the physico-chemical properties of these abraded microplastics. These studies will help combat microplastic pollution in aquatic systems by quantifying plastic degeneration rates of larger persistent plastics into smaller microplastics and assess the environmental impact of microplastics.