A team of pioneering researchers including Professor Richard Thompson OBE, Head of the University of Plymouth’s International Marine Litter Research Unit, has won two prestigious awards for the impact of work highlighting the presence, and potential impacts, of microplastics in our oceans and the marine life they contain.
Along with colleagues from the University of Exeter and Plymouth Marine Laboratory, Professor Thompson won the Societal Impact category and overall prize in the Natural Environment Research Council’s (NERC) 2018 Impact Awards.
The accolades recognise their efforts to bring the causes and effects of plastic pollution, and in particular microplastics, to the attention of policy makers, industry and the general public globally.
In an excellent example of collaborative research, the three institutes brought together a wealth of expertise, experience and facilities to investigate the global challenge of microplastics in the ocean.
As well as Professor Thompson, the winning team includes: Professor Tamara Galloway, Professor Brendan Godley and Dr Ceri Lewis, from the University of Exeter; and Dr Penelope Lindeque and Dr Matt Cole from Plymouth Marine Laboratory.
Professor Thompson was the first to coin the term microplastics in a seminal research paper published in Science in 2004, and subsequent NERC-funded research by the team has directly influenced policy in the UK and the world.
This includes the UK’s ban on microbeads in cosmetics, which came into force in January 2018, while members of the team have also advised on influential TV documentaries such as Blue Planet II and Drowning in Plastic.