Imogen Napper

Academic profile

Dr Imogen Napper

Visiting Research Fellow
School of Biological and Marine Sciences (Faculty of Science and Engineering)

The Global Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. Imogen's work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

Goal 04: SDG 4 - Quality EducationGoal 09: SDG 9 - Industry, Innovation, and InfrastructureGoal 12: SDG 12 - Responsible Consumption and ProductionGoal 14: SDG 14 - Life Below Water

About Imogen

Dr. Imogen Napper is a Marine Scientist and National Geographic Explorer. Growing up in a seaside town, she began noticing the growing amount of plastic contamination on beaches where she grew up and was eager to be part of the solution. Now, being described as a ‘Plastic Detective’, her research investigates the different sources of plastic pollution into the environment.  She received a PhD at the University of Plymouth and her work helped influence the ban of microbeads in cosmetics internationally, where she found up to 3 million plastic beads could be in one facial scrub bottle. Imogen also produced the first research piece that specifically analysed different fabric types (such as polyester) to further understand how many plastic fibres come off clothes during washing and reports this could be more than 700,000 fibres from a single wash. She has also investigated biodegradable plastics bags and found they could still hold a full load of shopping after being submerged in the ocean or buried in soil after 3 years.  In fieldwork, Imogen was a scientist on the National Geographic ‘Sea to Source; Ganges Expedition’ and her work estimated that up to 3 billion microplastics could be discharged into the ocean from a major river system every day. She was also the lead microplastic scientist for the National Geographic ‘Perpetual Planet’ Everest expedition finding the highest microplastics ever recorded near the summit and predicts they were shed from climbers’ clothes. Additionally, she has worked on a feasibility project with the Zoological Society of London working to implement waste management strategies on remote islands within the Indian Ocean.  Imogen has also focussed on how plastic pollution is linked to other environmental issues, such as space debris. She is now researching how we can use our knowledge of ocean debris to influence action to mitigate pollution of our orbit. She is writing research to advocate a United Nations Sustainability Development Goal (UN SDG) 18, focussing our Earth’s orbital environment to raise awareness. As well as research, Imogen is keen on spreading environmental awareness and positivity through outreach and presentations. Her research shows how small changes can make a big difference and that larger environmental commitments are needed by industry and governments globally. 

Contact Imogen

Room 616, Davy Building, Drake Circus, Plymouth, PL4 8AA