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Public & community engagement

Dr. Leela Rajamani

Centre for Marine and Coastal Studies (CEMACS)

Dr. Leela Rajamani a marine mammal ecologist and conservationist. She graduated in 2009 with a Ph.D. on dugong and seagrass conservation and has been working with marine mammals since 2002. She is currently Senior Lecturer at the Centre for Marine and Coastal Studies, Universiti Sains Malaysia. Her key interests include dugong, seagrass and dolphin ecology and conservation and involving local communities in the research, conservation and management of marine mammals. Notable appointments include being a Member of the IUCN-SSC Sirenian Specialist Group, Visiting Scholar at James Cook University and participating in the global GEF Dugong and Seagrass Conservation project from 2015 to 2018. She is working on an ecological project on inshore dolphins in Penang and on offshore marine mammals in Sabah. Currently, she is also a Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist for the GEF Small Grants Programme at UNDP, Malaysia. Her aim is to inform a balanced and equitable approach to the management of coastal and marine resources.


Japson Wong

1 Founder of JF Production KK
2 Founder of TAME Center (2019)
3 Leas artist for WOW1.0 Project

Mr. Japson Wong is a marine biologist and upcycle artist. He is the founder of JF Production-kk, established in Dec 2014, with 7 members that focus on the non-recycles items for upcycling activities. Through this foundation, he aims to educate, inspire and teach communities about upcycling. He is also the founder of TAME Center, established in Dec 2019. This center provides a space for NGOs, Social Enterprises, and Green groups to do activities, events, and workshops. He is currently appointed as a lead artist for the WOW1.0 project. The WOW1.0 project is the biggest art installation which consists of four elements: 2D, 3D, community art, and digital art.

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Associate Professor Dr. Jacey-Lynn Minoi

Associate Professor at Faculty of Computer Science and Information Technology, UNIMAS.

Jacey-Lynn Minoi is a computer scientist, currently employed as a Lecturer of Computing and Exploratory Data Analysis at Universiti Malaysia Sarawak. Her research focuses on the development of multivariate tensor-based and multivariate statistical shape analysis methods for shape modelling in multiple dimensions and pattern recognition in image analysis. She is also the Director of the Gamification Centre, where she is the driving force behind computational and exploratory thinking employing a game-like approach to problem-solving. Jacey also travels frequently into Sarawak's interiors, meeting and staying with indigenous communities, equipping them with the skills and empowering them. Her various projects also include health informatics, aerial drone mapping, fun learning, frugal innovation for climate change, and community empowerment. These works have received national and international attention.

Noor Rizan Binti Mohd Yusoff

Chairman of Majlis Pengurusan Komuniti Kampung (MPKK), Teluk Bahang


Noor Rizan Binti Mohd Yusoff (born 22 December 1960 ) is a chairman of Majlis Pengurusan Komuniti Kampung (MPKK), Teluk Bahang and Deputy Head of Women’s Parliament Balik Pulau. She was the formal Secretary of MPKK Teluk Awak. Noor Rizan is also very active in the non-government organisation and currently hold a position as a leader of women under the Agricultural Department of Balik Pulau.

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Douw Steyn

Sustainability Director, Plastics SA

Douw Steyn joined the Plastics Federation of SA, as an Environmental Officer in June 1997, after working for the Population Development Program (PDP) in Kwazulu Natal for 12 years, where he was responsible for Population Education, Environment and Industry liaison. Douw’s passion lies in guiding and supporting the South African plastics industry’s sustainability objectives in South Africa, ensuring environmental responsibility, as well as education of the public and awareness creation in terms of plastics, its uses and recycling. He is an active member of various waste management and environmental organisations such as the Global Plastics Alliance, UN Ad Hoc Expert Group on Marine and Micro Plastics, the Electronic Waste Association of SA, Chairman of the National Recycling Forum SA (till 2018) and founder member of various organisations and campaigns such as the Marine and Coastal Educators Forum, the International Coastal Clean-up SA, Clean-up and Recycle SA Week and Recycling Day SA. He is currently the Director Sustainability at Plastics|SA. Douw studied Physical Education and is a qualified karate instructor and Master Diver, he enjoys the outdoors and scuba diving in particular.

Thor Sandberg Eriksen

South African Institution for Aquatic Biodiversity

Thor Eriksen serves as a marine instrument technician for the South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity. Thor fulfills a role that allows him the opportunity to manage a fleet of state owned coastal craft research vessels, engage with stakeholders with in the Kwa-Zulu natal, South Africa marine research community and collaborate on a variety of marine research projects. Thor has a degree in Environmental management and an array of technical skills that have afforded him the oppturnity to manage the operational requirements that his company has set out for him. Thor has the belief that all life, sentient or not, deserves the opportunity to be understood, because through understanding comes an appreciation and through appreciation comes the need and want to live in harmony. Thor lives with the idealism that by offering scientists world class research services and assistance, good science can be achieved and this translates into a good understanding of the world we live in.

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Dr. Henri-Count Evans

University of Eswatini

Henri-Count Evans holds a PhD in Cultural and Media Studies, a Master of Social Science in Cultural and Media Studies (both from the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa) and a Bachelor of Science (Honours) Degree in Journalism and Media Studies from the National University of Science and Technology in Zimbabwe. He has done research work about media practice and reporting of climate change issues and sustainable development. Henri-Count Evans has presented his academic work at several academic conferences and published several book chapters and journal articles. Henri-Count Evans has co-edited the book “Knowledge for Justice: Critical Perspectives from Southern African-Nordic Research Partnerships. Cape Town, South Africa: African Minds”, has been section editor for the Handbook of Climate Change Resilience published by Springer under the prestigious Climate Change Management Series. He teaches in the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Eswatini and has been an external Training Development Consultant and African Journalism Mentor at Climate Tracker.

Dr. Trishan Naidoo

University of Kwa-Zulu Natal

I have been a post-doctoral fellow at the University of the Western Cape. This position has ended and was extended up until March 2020. My main research areas revolve around generating indicators of mangrove health, water quality and functionality. The aim of the project was to improve our knowledge of mangrove ecology and increase our understanding of how mangroves respond to pollution, including heavy metals and plastics. This was done to provide insightful recommendations for management strategies. I have completed a PhD program, undertaking research on the extent of microplastic pollution within estuaries of Durban and the effects of microplastics on marine biota. This required me to sample benthic and pelagic marine debris from both the water column and sediment as well as those debris that end up within the digestive tracts of juvenile estuarine fish. The doctoral degree was a continuation of a masters degree with additions. I am currently in another post-doctoral fellowship at the University of KwaZulu-Natal that focuses on the fate and impacts of marine debris.

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Katie O'Hara

Loggerhead Marinelife Center

Katie O’Hara is the conservation manager at Loggerhead Marinelife Center, a nonprofit sea turtle hospital and ocean conservation center located in Juno Beach, Florida. She holds a B.S. in Marine Biology and a B.A. in English from the College of Charleston and is currently pursuing her Master of Science in Marine Science at Unity College. Ms. O’Hara leads the LMC conservation department by developing and implementing comprehensive conservation solutions to anthropogenic threats facing sea turtles both locally and globally. Katie is also a SCUBA instructor and enjoys being underwater and travels whenever she can.

Esther Maina

Kenyan Youth Biodiversity Network

Esther is a nature, climate and ocean advocate. She is the Marine Action Coordinator for Kenyan Youth Biodiversity Network, ocean advocate with Ocean Conservation Trust and Kenyan Representative in the Youth Policy Advisory Council of the Sustainable Ocean Alliance . Esther's works to inspire land-to-sea conservation and galvanize action for coordinated protection of these ecosystems.

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Rachel Kippen

Santa Cruz County's Commission on the Environment

Rachel Kippen is a coastal environmental advocate, writer, nonprofit professional, and artist. She has over 15 years experience in educational programming, communications, and advocacy at such organizations as the California Academy of Sciences, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Catalina Island Marine Institute, guiding kayaks and crewing boats in Elkhorn Slough and the Gulf of the Farallons, sustainability policy and climate mitigation with the City of Watsonville, and and Executive leadership roles at the ocean nonprofits Save Our Shores and O’Neill Sea Odyssey. She authors a twice monthly column for the Santa Cruz Sentinel titled "Our Ocean Backyard." She is proud to serve as a Commissioner appointed in the third district for Santa Cruz County's Commission on the Environment, an equity advisor for the City of Santa Cruz's Climate Action Plan, the Co-Chair of the Santa Cruz County Tobacco Education Coalition to forward policy eliminating toxic tobacco pollution, and the Board Secretary for Black Surf Club Santa Cruz to increase coastal recreation opportunities and diverse representation. She received her undergraduate degree Environmental Studies, holds a Certificate in Nonprofit Management from SF State, a Certificate in Environmental Leadership and Global Transdisciplinary Environmental Education from Cornell, and completed her graduate research in Environmental Justice Education and Social Ecology at Prescott College. Her graduate research explored agricultural plastics and the environmental justice implications of toxic waste located in primarily lower income immigrant communities. The majority of her work centers on increasing access to the ocean, and decreasing the unjust distribution of pollution in the communities she works with on the Central Coast. Link to all her columns with the Sentinel:


Innovative technologies

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Professor/Director Atsuhiko Isobe

Center for Marine Plastic Studies, Research Institute for Applied Mechanics, Kyushu University

Atsuhiko Isobe, a professor of the Research Institute for Applied Mechanics, Kyushu University is a physical oceanographer. After graduating Ehime University, he had worked at the National Fisheries University as a research associate, Kyushu University as an associate professor, Center for Marine Environmental Studies in Ehime University as a professor, and is currently working in Kyushu University. He is now working as the principal investigator of multiple marine plastic research projects sponsored by the Japanese government. He was awarded the Environment Minister’s prize in 2018, the Prime Minister’s prize in 2019, and the Prize for Science and Technology from the Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology in 2020, for his marine plastic pollution research.


Fujio Kojima

CEO of Pirika, Inc

Mr. Fujio Kojima, eco-entrepreneur started up Pirika, Inc. in 2011 when he was a graduate school student of Kyoto University. Pirika is a social startup tackling the marine plastic pollution. Anti-litter smart phone app named "Pirika" encouraged 1 million people to pick up litter and picked up 200 million pieces of litter in 111 countries. "Albatross" is one of the biggest micro-plastic research project in Japan and his team revealed that 25% of micro-plastics in Japanese rivers are artificial grasses which used in soccer and tennis court. He started to research of plastic pollutions in Southeast Asia in 2019 with UNEP and expand his solutions.

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Dr. Mitsuko Hidaka

Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC)

Mitsuko Hidaka is a Ph.D. in Fisheries Sciences and her work was focused on the ecology of mid-water gelatinous zooplankton. She is now focusing on the application of artificial intelligence (AI) techniques to some different science topics, such as beach litter quantification and plankton detection.

Prof. Tomoya Kataoka

Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering, Ehime University, Japan

Dr. Kataoka is a hydrological and coastal scientist and an Associate Professor at the Department of Civil & Engineering, Ehime University in Japan. His current work is to examine and model the transport of plastic from land to sea. He is also a member of the Microplastics Committee of the Japan Society on Water Environment (JSWE)

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Dr. Artur Zolich

Post doctoral researcher, Department of Engineering Cybernetics, Norwegian university of Science and Technology

With a background in Robotics and Aircraft Engineering and over a decade of professional experience, I am successfully merging academic research with hands-on engineering. I design and develop tailor-made, state-of-the-art systems which support interdisciplinary research groups field-work and data acquisition. My key interests are novel concepts created for challenging environments, utilizing the potential of unmanned technologies. My previous work includes solutions based on Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs a.k.a. drones), Unmanned Surface Vehicles (USVs), Arctic buoys, and various embedded systems. Following my interest in research outcomes scalability I’m currently exploring a path towards a combination of academic career and entrepreneurship.

Elizabeth Prentice

Satellite Integration & Testing, Eidsvoll Electronics AS (EIDEL)

Elizabeth Prentice has recently started at Eidsvoll Electronics and is responsible for the company’s assembly, integration, and testing (AIT) activities for future space projects and satellite missions. She is also in the final stages of completing her PhD in the Department of Engineering Cybernetics at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. Her research has focused on optical remote sensing and mechanical integration for small satellites and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs, drones). She was responsible for hardware development and AIT on the HYPSO-1 hyperspectral CubeSat mission at NTNU – primarily hyperspectral imager development. She has a MSc in Remote Sensing for Applied Earth Science from TU Delft (Delft, the Netherlands, 2016), a BSE in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor, MI USA, 2011), and several years’ experience in dimensional / mechanical engineering at a design-for-manufacturing consultancy firm.

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Laurent Lebreton

Head of Research at The Ocean Cleanup

Laurent Lebreton is a physical oceanographer who focuses his research on ocean plastics. His interest in the topic started in 2010 when he tried to simulate the accumulation of floating ocean plastics in subtropical gyres with numerical models. Laurent has since authored and co-authored dozens of scientific papers on ocean plastic pollution. In 2016, he joined The Ocean Cleanup, a non-for-profit organization developing technology to rid the ocean of plastics. His research group focuses on understanding the sources, the transport, and the fate of ocean plastic pollution by leading large-scale field expeditions, developing advanced numerical models, and investing in remote sensing technology. Ultimately, Laurent is interested in closing a global mass balance budget for plastics in our oceans as a direct tool for the rapid implementation of a wide range of mitigation strategies from local to global scale.

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Dr. Anna Michel

Associate Scientist & Chief Scientist for Deep Submergence, Department of Applied Ocean Physics and Engineering, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Anna Michel is an Associate Scientist in the Department of Applied Ocean Physics and Engineering at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. She also serves as the Chief Scientist for the National Deep Submergence Facility. Her research focuses on the development of new in situ sensors and sensing platforms for advancing our understanding of ocean chemistry in locations ranging from deep-sea hydrothermal vents to the coastal Arctic. Michel’s lab is also developing technologies for measuring microplastics. Committed to educating the next generation of ocean engineers, Michel teaches in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology – Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Joint Program and has developed the GOES: Girls in Ocean Engineering and Science program for middle school girls. Michel received BS degrees in Chemical Engineering and Biology and an MS in Ocean Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She has a PhD in Mechanical and Oceanographic Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology – Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Joint Program. Michel completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Princeton University as the MIRTHE Center Research and Teaching Fellow. Michel was a recipient of an NSF CAREER Award, the Arons Award, and a National Academies Gulf Research Fellowship.

Dr. Eric Sparks

Director of Coastal and Marine Extension/Associate Extension Professor - Mississippi State University

Eric Sparks received a Ph.D. in Marine Sciences from the University of South Alabama/Dauphin Island Sea Lab in 2014 and a B.S. in Marine Biology from Troy University in 2008. He currently serves as the Director of Coastal and Marine Extension for Mississippi State University and dually as the Assistant Director of Outreach and Coastal Ecology Specialist for the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium. In these roles he conducts a variety of research and extension activities across a variety of topics, but specializing in living shorelines, coastal ecology, marine debris, and environmental stewardship.

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Ethan Edson

Co-Founder | CTO, Ocean Diagnostics Inc.

Ethan Edson is the Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer at Ocean Diagnostics Inc. (ODI), an environmental impact company located in British Columbia, Canada focused on tackling plastic pollution and biodiversity loss through development of innovative technologies, laboratory analysis, data platforms, and collaborative partnerships. Ethan received his degree in Marine and Environmental Science from Northeastern University and has previously spent time working for Northeastern’s Field Robotics Laboratory on underwater sensing and at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution helping to refine the Environmental Sample Processor (ESP) for Harmful Algal Bloom monitoring. Ethan currently leads the R&D team at ODI in the development of new technologies and analytical tools to quantify and monitor microplastics and eDNA in the marine environment.

Anchor 3

Policies and actions

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Catarina Serra Goncalves

1 Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania, 20 Castray Esplanade, Battery Point, Tasmania, 7004, Australia
2 Centre for Marine Socioecology, University of Tasmania, Hobart 7001, Australia.

Catarina's background is largely focused on uncovering the complexities of human impacts on ecosystems, mainly working with marine pollution and community-based conservation projects, working mostly with microplastics in freshwater birds and sediments. For her PhD, she identified plastic pollution hotspots in Australia, trends over time, and (most importantly) she researched the effectiveness of multiple individual mitigation strategies aimed to reduce marine debris in the environment at different organizational levels (from local to national) by working closely with Australian communities and the Tangaroa Blue Foundation.


Dr. Kathyrn Willis

School of Aquatic and Fisheries Science, University of Washington, USA

Kathryn is a marine socio-ecologist, from the north-west coast of Tasmania, who is particularly interested in how communities can establish best-practice conservation management strategies in marine systems, and in doing so, maximise their environmental and social impact. Kathryn recently completed a PhD at the University of Tasmania, in partnership with CSIRO Oceans & Atmosphere, where she explored the effectiveness of government waste management policies, infrastructure and outreach programs at reducing coastal plastic pollution. She is currently completing a Fulbright Fellowship with the Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team at the University of Washington in Seattle, where she continues researching strategies that reduce the harms of plastic pollution in communities around the world.

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Peter Whish-Wilson

Australian Greens Senator for Iutruwita/Tasmania

Senator Peter Whish-Wilson has been an Australian Greens Senator for Tasmania since 2012. His current Australian Greens portfolio responsibilities are: Healthy Oceans, Waste & Recycling, Small Business, Consumer Affairs and Agriculture & Rural Affairs. In a 2013 Senator’s Statement, Peter was Australia’s first parliamentarian to raise the dangers of plastic pollution in the ocean in Federal Parliament. In 2015 he initiated the world’s first inquiry into the threat of marine plastic pollution. The inquiry produced a report called Toxic Tide and the first recommendation was to ban microbeads, which happened the following year. Peter has also initiated inquiries into container deposit schemes, and the waste and recycling crisis in Australia. Last year he put up a Private Member’s Bill to address the shortfalls in the government’s recent waste legislation. This bill included addressing some of the most problematic single-use plastics and forcing producers to take responsibility for their products and packaging. The bill was narrowly defeated, but the fight goes on. 

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Dr. Patricia Villarrubia-Gómez

Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University

Patricia’s research focuses on the cross-scale dynamics in social-ecological systems, large-scale collective action, and Earth system governance regarding the global plastic pollution challenge. She is particularly interested in understanding the science-policy-society interfaces dealing with plastic pollution, using a gender and intersectional lens to understand the plastic pollution problem represented to be in the regional and international policy current arena. Patricia holds an MSc in Social-Ecological Resilience for Sustainable Development from Stockholm University and BSc in Environmental Science from Granada University. Prior to her PhD, Patricia worked as a Plastic Pollution Expert for GRID- Arendal (a UNEP Partner).

Prof. Aldo Drago

Physical Oceanography Research Group within the University of Malta

Prof. Aldo Drago set up the Physical Oceanography Unit (PO-Unit, subsequently the Physical Oceanography Research Group within the University of Malta) which he led until 2021. Prof. Drago served as the Maltese delegate to the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC/UNESCO) and to the International Commission for the Scientific Exploration of the Mediterranean (CIESM), the National Representative for the Committee on the International Oceanographic Data and Information Exchange (IODE/IOC), and Malta's lead delegate on several European fora. Prof. Drago is currently the national pivot in the BlueMed initiative for Blue Growth, representing Malta on the BlueMed Group of Senior Officials, Co-Leader on the JPI-Oceans Joint Action Science for Good Environmental Status (S4GES), Expert on the COPERNICUS Marine Service Champion User Advisory Group, Member of the COPERNICUS Academy Network, and member of the EOOS Operations Committee. He has also led or participated in a large number of research projects, the most recent ones being: Project leader of CALYPSO South, UM Project responsible for SeaDataNet, H2020 project on ‘Further developing the pan-European infrastructure for marine and ocean data management’; UM Project responsible for EmodNET Data Ingestion II providing data archaeology on national datasets for EmodNET; Project participant in NEWS, Italia-Malta project, etc.

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Gianni Valenti

President and Founder of GAIA FIRST

Gianni Valenti has been in business management, creation and consultancy for more than 15 years, with innovation (technical or scientific) being a key element to all projects. He has contributed to changing industries and organisations to a more sustainable modus operandi. The urgent need to tackle environmental issues has pushed him to concentrate on the actions to solution other than just advertising the problem and waiting. In 2020 he founded GAIA FIRST with a large-scale project of cleaning the oceans in a self-sustaining and green manner. Passionate of nature and life, his consultancies have veered towards environmental and sustainability strategies as a primary objective.

Sigi Gruber

Senior Advisor for the European Commission

Since 1/01/2021 retired European Commission Official, but currently still working as Active Senior Advisor for the European Commission. From 2014 until 2021, she was Head of the Healthy Ocean and Seas Unit, in the Directorate General for R&I of the European Commission. The work of the Unit focused – amongst others - on co-creating the European Mission on ‘Restoring our Ocean and Waters by 2030’, it supported the UN Decade for Ocean Science, implemented the All Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance and many other European/global initiatives; and shaped the marine parts of Horizon Europe, the Research&Innovation Programme of the European Union. Sigi Gruber started to work for the European Commission in 1991, with different responsibilities in the area of Education and Training, Researchers Careers, the European Institute for Technology (EIT), Research &Universities and International Cooperation. Prior to joining the European Commission, she worked in the public and private sector in Italy and Germany.

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Nathany Herrera

Environment Education Coordinator at EcoSurf Institute

Bachelor in Biological Sciences, Elementary School Teacher. Master's student developing research related to microplastics at the Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Marine Science and Technology at the Instituto do Mar at the Federal University of São Paulo (UNIFESP). Director of the an environmental education project (Oceano na Escola) at Instituto Ecosurf and member of the action research team (Ecosystem Stressors and Future Scenarios) of the Brazilian Ocean Horizon Program (HOB). Young Brazilian member of the World Ocean Day Youth Advisory Council.

Dr. Prof. Alexander Turra

UNESCO Chair on Ocean Sustainability, Oceanographic Institute and Institute of Advanced Studies, University of São Paulo

Holds an undergraduate degree in Biological Sciences (1994) and both Master (1998) and PhD degrees (2003) in Ecology from the Campinas State University (UNICAMP), Brasil. In 2006, he assumed the position of assistant professor of Integrated Coastal Management at the Oceanographic Institute of the University of São Paulo, becoming an associate professor in 2015 and full professor in 2018. Turra work covers a range of different areas of marine science including governance, management and conservation, environmental impact assessment, climate change, marine litter and ecology. His research interests also include investigations of the links between science and policy and the monitoring of environmental quality. Turra is the coordinator of the UNESCO Chair on Ocean Sustainability at the Oceanographic Institute and Advanced Sciences Institute at University of São Paulo.

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Dr. Maria Teresa Castilho Mansor

Environmental Planning Coordination, Secretariat for Infrastructure and Environment of São Paulo State, Brazil.

B.Sc. in Chemical Engineering at the Universidade Estadual de Campinas (1990), M.Sc. in Agricultural Engineering at the Universidade Estadual de Campinas (1998), Ph.D. in Agricultural Engineering at the Universidade Estadual de Campinas (2005) with training program at the Michigan State University (2004). From 1998 to 1999 worked as research assistant at the United States Geological Survey/University of Wisconsin, USA. Since 2007 works in Public Service at the Environmental Planning Coordination of the Secretariat for Infrastructure and Environment of São Paulo State, Brazil. The experience in Environmental Planning has emphasis in Solid Waste, Environmental Zoning and Public Policies. In 2019 joined in the Research Collaborator Program of the Oceanographic Institute of the University of São Paulo, to develop the Project “Mussel as Bioindicator of the Presence of Microplastics in Marine Protected Areas of São Paulo State, Brasil”.

Background image:Brian Yurasits/Ocean image bank

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