JCC To Host Perils of Plastic: Notes From The Ocean

The founders of the 5 Gyres Institute, an organization established to reduce plastic pollution in the world’s oceans, will present “The Perils of Plastic: Notes From the Ocean” at 7 p.m. on April 16 and noon on April 17 in Scharmann Theatre on JCC’s Jamestown Campus.

Admission is free. The program is sponsored by JCC’s science, technology, engineering, and mathematics division as part of its Celebration of Science series. For more information, call 716.338.1315.

Marcus Eriksen and Anna Cummins formed the 5 Gyres Institute to conduct research and communicate the global impact of plastic pollution, particularly in the five subtropical oceanographic gyres – the Indian, North and South Atlantic, and North and South Pacific oceans. The 5 Gyres and its partners, Pangaea Explorations and Algalita Marine Research Foundation, organize research expeditions to assess plastic pollution.

“To eliminate plastic pollution we employ strategies that work,” note the couple. “To stop the flow of plastic to the sea we advocate new materials, better designed products, fair legislation, and engage in consumer education.” The organization also focuses on post-consumer cleanup efforts of coastal and island debris removal and mitigation.

Before founding 5 Gyres, Dr. Eriksen and Ms. Cummins worked at the Algalita Research Institute with Charles Moore, who has been credited with the ‘discovery’ of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. They have sailed and surveyed all five of the oceanic gyres and recently conducted a survey of plastic pollution in the Great Lakes.

Dr. Eriksen received a doctorate in science education from the University of Southern California in 2003, months before embarking on a 2000-mile journey down the Mississippi River on a raft made from plastic bottles. A renowned advocate for ocean conservation, he is the recipient of the H. David Nahai Water Quality Award in Education, presented by the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board for his conservation work with inner city students, and the Menzie Education Award, given by the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry for marine education efforts.

In 2008, Dr. Eriksen rafted across the Pacific Ocean from California to Hawaii on JUNK, a raft floating on 15,000 plastic bottles, 30 sailboat masts lashed to form a deck, and a Cessna airplane fuselage as a cabin. The journey, 2,600 miles in 88 days, brought attention to the issue of plastic trash filling the world’s oceans and solutions.

Ms. Cummins has worked in marine conservation, coastal watershed management, sustainability education, and high school ecology instruction. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Stanford University and a master’s degree in international environmental policy from the Monterey Institute for International Studies. Among her marine conservation efforts, she was awarded a fellowship by the Sustainable Communities Leadership Program to work with Save Our Shores. Her work with Algalita included a month-long, 4,000-mile research expedition studying plastic debris in the North Pacific Gyre.



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