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National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis

Project Description

Ocean pollution by plastic and other man-made debris is a pressing environmental problem that has captured the attention of marine conservationists, anti-plastic activists, the media and the general public. While this problem is not new – plastic debris in the ocean was first reported in the 1970s – a rigorous scientific evaluation of the problem has lagged behind the increasing attention from a diverse set of stakeholders. Only recently has “marine debris” begun to emerge as a recognized field of scientific inquiry, with novel research efforts underway in tandem with new interest by major funding agencies and foundations. The Marine Debris Working Group consists of a team of international experts in fields including oceanography, marine ecology, toxicology, polymer, science and waste management, who have been synthesizing existing information across these disciplines to answer fundamental questions about the sources, amount, behavior, and impacts of man-made debris in the marine environment. The results of this two-year working group will become available in 2014, providing a much-needed scientific grounding to the subject that will inform the public, industry stakeholders and policymakers, in addition to the scientific community. This project is supported by the Ocean Conservancy and NCEAS.

Principal Investigator(s)

Kara Lavender Law, Steven D. Gaines

Project Dates

Start: December 1, 2011

End: December 31, 2018



Satie Airame
University of California, Santa Barbara
Linda Amaral Zettler
Marine Biological Laboratory
Anthony Andrady
North Carolina State University
Morton Barlaz
North Carolina State University
Mark A. Browne
University of California, Santa Barbara
Gee Chapman
University of Sydney
Patty Debenham
Patty Debenham, Ph.D
Mary J. Donohue
University of Hawaii
Betsy Dorn
StewardEdge USA Inc.
Steven D. Gaines
University of California, Santa Barbara
Francois Galgani
Institut Français de Recherche pour l'exploitation de la Mer
Roland Geyer
University of California, Santa Barbara
Miriam Goldstein
University of California, San Diego
Jan Hafner
University of Hawaii
Benjamin S. Halpern
University of California, Santa Barbara
Xueying Han
University of California, Santa Barbara
Britta Denise Hardesty
CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research
K. David Hyrenbach
Hawaii Pacific University
Jenna Jambeck
University of Georgia
Hrissi Karapanagioti
University of Patras
Kara Lavender Law
Sea Education Association
George Leonard
Ocean Conservancy
Nicholas Mallos
Ocean Conservancy
Nikolai Maximenko
University of Hawaii
Skye Moret-Ferguson
Sea Education Association
Ramani Narayan
Michigan State University
Giora Proskurowski
University of Washington
Chelsea Rochman
University of California, Davis
David A. Siegel
University of California, Santa Barbara
Ted Siegler
DSM Environmental Services, Inc.
Hideshige Takada
Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology
Richard Thompson
Plymouth University
Tony Underwood
University of Sydney
Jan van Franeker
Institute for Marine Resources and Ecosystem Studies
Chris Wilcox
CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research
Rob Williams
University of British Columbia
Erik Zettler
Sea Education Association


  1. Journal Article / 2015

    Linking effects of anthropogenic debris to ecological impacts

  2. Journal Article / 2015

    Spatial and temporal patterns of stranded intertidal marine debris: Is there a picture of global change?

  3. Journal Article / 2017

    Production, use, and fate of all plastics ever made

  4. Journal Article / 2015

    Novel methods, new results and science-based solutions to tackle marine debris impacts on wildlife

  5. Journal Article / 2015

    Plastic waste inputs from land into the ocean

  6. Journal Article / 2014

    Microplastics in the seas

  7. Journal Article / 2016

    The ecological impacts of marine debris: Unraveling the demonstrated evidence from what is perceived

  8. Journal Article / 2015

    Seabirds, gyres and global trends in plastic pollution

  9. Journal Article / 2015

    A global inventory of small floating plastic debris

  10. Journal Article / 2015

    Threat of plastic pollution to seabirds is global, pervasive, and increasing

  11. Journal Article / 2019

    Abundance of Floating Plastic Particles Is Increasing in the Western North Atlantic Ocean

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