Plastic Pollution Working Group Members
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.
I am an ecologist at the Nicholas School of the Environment who is 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.
Duke Marine Lab Science Outreach With Boys & Girls Club (YouTube video)
Duke Marine Lab Community Science Program on Twitter: dumlcommunity
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
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).
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.
Dr. Will Eward is a physician-scientist at Duke University where he specializes in the treatment and study of Sarcoma. As a dual DVM-MD with expertise in comparative models of cancer, Will serves as Executive Director of the Duke University Comparative Oncology Group. Although his lab primarily studies cancer, they are very interested in plastic waster because it can perpetuate carcinogens in the environment. Will’s research includes how we can transform plastic waste into a biodegradable substrate. Will is a team leader for the Bass Connections team on Bioremediation of Plastic Pollution to Conserve Marine Biodiversity.
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.
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.
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 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."
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.
My lab is interested in micro and nano plastic toxicity to aquatic organisms, with a particular focus on fish.
Dr. Nancy Lauer is a Lecturing Fellow and Staff Scientist with the Duke Environmental Law and Policy Clinic. Dr. Lauer works with the City of Durham, riverkeepers, and the local non-profits on measures to reduce plastic waste and plastic pollution through stormwater controls and source reduction. Much of her research focuses on developing methods to collect data on plastic pollution and using that data to inform effective plastic policies.
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.
Dr. Pare is a Visiting Professor at Duke's Nicholas School in the Business and Environment concentration of the Masters in Environmental Management. He is also an Associate Professor within Thomas College's business program in Maine, where he teaches Organizational Behavior, Ethical Leadership, Business Strategy, and Process Improvement with a focus on environmental and change management. He has worked with many industries, including healthcare, biotech, food manufacturing, boat builders, government, and nonprofits. He serves on multiple nonprofit boards and provides training and coaching to for-profit businesses, nonprofits, and governmental agencies. He is a certified behavioral specialist on DISC, scrum leader, lean greenbelt, and leadership challenge facilitator.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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
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.
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.
Miranda Bernard (she/her) is a marine social scientist who is currently a postdoc in the Ocean Synthesis Lab. She is interested in studying the dynamics between conservation interventions and community members. Her prior work has focused on community perceptions, the role of community engagement in marine protected area management, plastic pollution interventions from the local to a global scale, and the impacts of fisheries certifications on ecosystem services.
I study how plastics of differing sizes, shapes, and compositions affect fish. I am particularly interested in morphologic changes resulting from plastic exposure and how these structural alterations affect the function of organs and tissues in order to understand impacts on whole organism health.
Zoie Diana, Ph.D., is an interdisciplinary scholar and sustainability scientist interested in environmental risks posed by marine plastic pollution and societal responses to this global conservation issue. Zoie recently earned her Ph.D. in multisector mitigation of plastic pollution in the Marine Science and Conservation Division and Integrated Toxicology and Environmental Health Program at Duke University. During this time, she conducted research with colleagues at the Nicholas Institute for Energy, Environment & Sustainability and the Environmental Law and Policy Clinic. She is a Liber Ero Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Toronto with partners at Ocean Conservancy and the Ontario Ministry of the Environment. Before earning her Ph.D., Zoie earned her Master of Coastal Environmental Management from Duke University and her Bachelor of Science with a double major in Environmental Science and Philosophy from Allegheny College. Her research has been published in journals like One Earth, Environment International, and Environmental Science & Policy and featured in media outlets such as The Hill, The Guardian, and Popular Science.
Rachel joined the Nicholas Institute as a Policy Associate in January 2019 and works for both Oceans and Coastal Policy and Ecosystem Services Programs. Rachel’s work focuses on the global plastics policy landscape, socioeconomic outcomes of coastal restoration, equity in environmental management, and STEM outreach. Prior to joining the Nicholas Institute, she worked for the Environmental Defense Fund and the Nicholas School of the Environment, focusing on fisheries management. Rachel received her Master’s degree in Environmental Management from Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment and her Bachelor’s degree from New York University. Her Master’s research was on seafood access in food deserts in North Carolina.
I am interested in the degeneration of plastics in the environment and continuing to investigate the effects of microplastic particles and their transport.
Laura Asherman is a documentary filmmaker, using film and stop-motion animation to explore climate change. Her MFA thesis film, The Dumpster Dive, is a hybrid documentary about microplastics told from the perspective of cockroaches.
Anne-Elisabeth’s research interests are focused around design and policy interventions to reduce plastic waste. Her background in industrial design has informed her interest in material circularity and end-of-life. She hopes to continue to explore the intersections of design, policy, and environmental justice.
While studying at the Nicholas School, Mollie has taken several courses on oceans focusing on plastic pollution and prevention. She hopes to apply her studies to the private sector, specifically in finding ways to reduce plastic in traditional packaging within the United States.
My current research examines the impacts of plastic leachates on soil microbiomes and their nitrification and mineralization capabilities. Additional interests include exploring forest byproducts as possible alternatives to plastic food packaging as well as understanding the impacts of plastic pollution on aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems and human communities.
As a PADI Divemaster and a researcher at the Nicholas School of the Environment, Michaela seeks to understand the implications of microplastics within our ecosystems and how they impact animal health and human health. She is currently working with Zoie Diana to research how microplastics consumption affects the microbiome of sea anemones. Michaela is an undergraduate in the Trinity School of Arts and Sciences majoring in Computer Science and minoring in Biology.
Greg's research focuses on the impacts of microscopic plastic pollution on Earth's largest animals, marine mammals. His background in aquatic toxicology and foraging ecology informs his current work understanding where microplastics may end up in a whale's body once ingested and subsequently how this may jeopardize metabolic function. Greg leverages a variety of field and laboratory techniques to identify, quantify, and characterize plastics impacting marine mammals including in-vitro toxicity assays, biopsy sampling, RNA-sequencing, Raman spectroscopy, and microwave assisted extraction pyrolysis-gas chromatography-mass spectrometry.
Jenna is the Program Manager of the Plastic Pollution Working Group. In this role, she coordinates working group research and outreach activities. She is researching pathways towards global sustainability for plastic pollution. She is also co-lead of Duke Restore’s Coral Team. Jenna is interested in the intersection of these two positions looking at the effects of microplastics on corals. Her prior, undergraduate research has focused on the intersection of international policy and marine plastic pollution.
My research primarily focuses on marine mammal and marine protected species conservation and currently work in a regulatory role protecting these species. While at Duke, I participated in the ‘Bioremediating Plastic Pollution to Conserve Marine Biodiversity’ Bass Connections team, working on a paper that looks at how technology-forcing policy mechanisms could be used to reduce plastic pollution.
Niki E. Lisi
As a graduate student in Duke's Coastal Environmental Management program, Niki joined Duke Bass Connections as a member of the Bioremediation of Plastic Pollution to Conserve Marine Biodiversity project team. While working with this group, Niki primarily focused on examining how technology-forcing mechanisms within the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act were used to decrease historical pollutants.This work, in combination with other strategic reviews, will be used to inform policy recommendations for reducing plastic pollution. After graduating from Duke in 2021, Niki joined the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association Fisheries Office of Protected Resources, where she currently works as their North Atlantic right whale Coordinator. Although Niki's work revolves around right whales and policy to reduce the threat of vessel strikes and entanglements to the species, she remains interested in plastic pollution and the Plastic Pollution Working Group. She is particularly interested in plastic marine debris, and derelict fishing gear and their effects on marine protected species.
Dr. Imari Walker-Franklin is currently a Research Scientist in RTI International’s Discovery Sciences (DS) Division. In this capacity, she contributes to the development of suspect screening and non-targeted chemical analysis. Prior to RTI, Dr. Walker-Franklin completed her PhD in Environmental Engineering, investigating the fate, occurrence, and transformation of polymer associated chemicals within aqueous environments. In particular, her dissertation work focuses on endocrine disrupting chemicals like Bisphenol A (BPA) that are of concern to human health and the environment. Some of her current work looks to investigate the human health and environmental effects of potentially harmful chemicals released from microplastic inhalation and ingestion.