Dr Imogen Napper completed an undergraduate degree in biomedical science and a master’s degree in biotechnology, and has recently finalised her PhD in marine science. Imogen spent her PhD working with Professor Richard Thompson in the University’s International Marine Litter Research Unit and was awarded a prestigious scholarship to advance her research into microplastics found in the marine environment.
Find out more about Imogen's work
Influencing a sea-change against plastic pollution in the marine environment
“When I was in primary school we held a charity balloon release. Sixty balloons were released, however, only five got returned and one even made its way to France. And this got me thinking, what happened to the other fifty-five balloons, especially if they were dropping into the ocean? This sparked my curiosity. This curiosity didn’t disappear.”
Sky Ocean Rescue Scholar
"My research is looking at the sources and fate of plastics within the marine environment and I’m typically looking at ways we wouldn’t necessarily think of such as microbeads in facial scrubs and washing our clothes. When we wash our clothes, up to 700,000 fibres can come off in the washing cycle and potentially make their way into the marine environment. The research that I’m going to be doing with the National Geographic and Sky Ocean Rescue is looking at how we can stop this."
eXXpedition North Pacific 2018
Imogen was the lead scientist for the second leg of eXXpedition North Pacific 2018, which sailed from Vancouver to Seattle.
"Imogen is a National Geographic Sky Ocean Rescue Scholar and we were all stunned to find out that Imiy and her team back at the University of Plymouth had led the research into microbeads in facial scrubs. This research contributed enormously to the legislation banning microbeads in the UK."
Imogen discussed eXXpedition and her research on Sky News: Sunrise
National Geographic Explorers Festival
"It shocked me, it angered me, but also gave me a lot of curiosity – where are all those tiny bits of plastic coming from? So this fuelled my passion and gave me my research mojo."
Imogen delivered a presentation considering ocean plastics at National Geographic HQ in Washington, D.C. in June 2018, and took part in a 'Planet or Plastic?' panel with experts in the field.
Project: The future of clothes washing
"A lot of our clothes can be made out of plastic material such as polyester, acrylic or natural / synthetic blend. We're going to be looking at new products that say that they can capture the fibres before they go into the waste-water and potentially into the marine environment."
Imogen, a National Geographic Explorer and Sky Ocean Rescue Scholar, talks about what she hopes to learn from her research project.
On World Oceans Day, 8 June 2018, Imogen took part in a Twitter Q&A hosted by the National Federation of Women's Institutes to discuss her research on microplastic fibres. She also took part in a litter pick challenge as part of the Plastic Clever Salcombe campaign.
Imogen is working to #EndPlasticSoup at the University's International Marine Litter Research Unit. Her previously conducted research showed that each use of a domestic washing machine could release more than 700,000 microscopic fibres into waste water and her current project involves testing products that say they can capture these fibres.
View the conversation at #WIEndPlasticSoup
Imogen (left) taking part in the paddle pick
Imogen in the news
22 March 2017: Students earn success at the treble in marine science awards
An active say in changing our environment for the better
We've tested the same products after two years and all of the plastic has been removed, all of the microbeads have been removed and replaced with another alternative. It shows that we have a voice and things can be changed.
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 solutionsFind out more about the International Marine Litter Research Unit