Professor Richard Thompson

An internationally renowned marine scientist and influencer has become the new Director of the University of Plymouth’s Marine Institute.

Professor Richard Thompson is one of the world’s leading experts on marine litter and was made an OBE in December 2017 for services to marine science.

Through his new role, he will continue to lead the International Marine Litter Research Unit while facilitating around 3,000 other researchers and students across a range of marine disciplines.

Professor Thompson is taking over as director from Professor Martin Attrill, who is now Associate Head of the University’s School of Biological and Marine Sciences.

“Since it was established, the Marine Institute has played a key role in ensuring the University’s position as a leader in marine science research and education,” Professor Thompson said. “Our research is fundamental in helping us understand the marine environment and how best to tackle the challenges it currently faces. I am looking forward to continuing the excellent work done by the Marine Institute over the past decade, supporting students and academics across all our marine disciplines.”

In 2004, Professor Thompson published a seminal paper in the journal Science in which he coined use of the term microplastics to describe small plastic fragments in our oceans. His subsequent research has examined the potential for microplastics to transport chemicals to marine life, and the global distribution of microplastics from shorelines to the deep seas and arctic sea ice.

He has given evidence to parliamentary inquiries and delivered numerous international presentations, including speaking at John Kerry’s ‘Our Ocean’ conference in Washington, DC in 2014.His work has made a fundamental contribution to government legislation on single-use carrier bags and the use of microbeads in cosmetics.

The Marine Institute was founded in 2006 and is the largest such institute in the UK; working with academics and students across the sciences, arts, business, health and medicine. It showcases our marine excellence, and connects our researchers with policy makers, businesses and the public, on a global scale.

Professor Attrill said:

"Heading up the Marine Institute over the last nine years has been a great experience, particularly representing the marine research delivered by our amazing staff at the University of Plymouth. Plymouth is now truly among the leading UK universities for marine and I am delighted that someone with Richard's drive, vision and reputation is taking on the role of Director and can take marine at Plymouth from strength to strength."

Professor Richard Thompson receiving his OBE from the Prince of Wales

Professor Richard Thompson made an OBE for services to marine science

The accolade, for Services to Marine Science, reflects his status as a world-leading authority on the problems caused by plastic pollution in the marine environment and the potential solutions.
Marine Institute

Marine Institute

Representing 3000 staff, researchers and students, the University of Plymouth's Marine Institute is the first and largest such institute in the UK. 
We provide the external portal to our extensive pool of world-leading experts and state-of-the-art facilities, enabling us to understand the relationship between the way we live, the seas that surround us and the development of sustainable policy solutions. 

International Marine Litter Research Unit

Marine litter is a global environmental problem with items of debris now contaminating habitats from the poles to the equator, from the sea surface to the deep sea.
Furthering our understanding of litter on the environment and defining solutions.
Marine litter