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Fighting marine plastic pollution: emerging scientists driving change with our Blue Charter Fellowships

Published on 24 July 2019
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The second cohort of Blue Charter Fellows have been selected to travel to ACU member universities and institutions across the Commonwealth to carry out research into marine plastic pollution.

Supporting multilateral academic mobility, the selected fellows will be undertaking a truly diverse array of research projects, including:

  • Dr Taiwo Hammed from the University of Ibadan, Nigeria, will be hosted by Dr Sabine Pahl at the University of Plymouth, UK, and will be working towards the development of community-based interventions to improve plastic waste management in Nigeria.
  • Freya Croft will carry out her fellowship in both the UK and New Zealand, where she will work with industry to develop strategies for the reduction, reclamation and improved management of plastics used by a large Maori owned fishing company will be undertaken.
  • Professor Salom Gnana Thanga Vincent from the University of Kerala, India, will be hosted by The University of Newcastle, Australia, where she will be undertake an innovative study to understand the flow of marine plastics through the Kerala coast in India, including prevalence in the food chain.

A full list of the successful fellows and their research projects will be published later in the year.

Fellows were selected following a rigorous selection process, overseen by a panel of experts from across the Commonwealth – highlighting the collaborative approach of this programme.

The ACU would like to thank the selection panel for their contributions:

  • Rosie Howells, Partner & Sustainability Performance Manager, Waitrose & Partners
  • Professor Francesca Kerton, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada
  • Dr Thava Palanisami, University of Newcastle, Australia
  • Dr Daniel Shilla, University of Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania
  • Alison Swaddling, Commonwealth Secretariat Blue Charter team

Tor Harris, Head of CSR, Health & Agriculture, Waitrose & Partners, said: “The Blue Charter Fellowships are so valuable in identifying sustainable solutions for the future and we're delighted to support such an interesting range of projects to research and tackle plastic pollution."

Dr Joanna Newman, ACU Chief Executive and Secretary General, said: "We are so proud to have the opportunity to launch a second cohort of Blue Charter Fellows, a group of outstanding researchers from universities across the Commonwealth. The Blue Charter Fellowships support a vast range of vital research into marine plastics, an essential component of reversing the damage done to our oceans. The research demonstrates the critical role that higher education plays in contributing to a sustainable future. We look forward to showcasing the results that will make a difference in tackling one of the most pressing global issues of our time."

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Shilla In The Lab

Last year’s Blue Charter Fellowships covered a diverse range of research topics and saw the development of new partnerships in the search for solutions to marine plastic pollution. For example:

  • The University of Adelaide, Australia, and University of the South Pacific (USP), Fiji, used the fellowship scheme to exchange PhD students. Nina Wootton travelled to the University of the South Pacific and Rufino Robert Varea travelled to the University of Adelaide for their Blue Charter Fellowships, where both their research focused on the contamination of marine life by microplastics. A collaboration between the two fellows and their universities during the placements allowed for the exchange of knowledge and techniques which furthered their research.
  • Refilwe Mofokeng, a PhD candidate at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, travelled to the University of Birmingham for her Blue Charter Fellowship. Her research focused on quantifying marine related pollution and finding relevant solutions to its effective management – read about her experience here.
  • Rajkumar Sahoo is a PhD Student from Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi, India. His Blue Charter Fellowship at Cardiff University, UK gave him the opportunity to further his research into the sustainable consumption of single-use plastics in Indian cities and build professional networks – read all about his experience here.

More information

ACU Blue Charter Fellowships are funded through the Commonwealth Marine Plastics Research and Innovation Framework – this expansion to the programme is directly funded by the contribution Waitrose & Partners made to the framework.

This programme helps fulfil the aims of the Commonwealth Marine Plastics Research and Innovation Framework and supports the work of the Commonwealth Blue Charter, by harnessing the collective knowledge and expertise of ACU member universities and supporting world-class research and innovation into marine plastics pollution.

Read more about the Commonwealth Blue Charter programme.