The study of plastic pollution started in the worlds’ oceans, most famously focused on what has been called the ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch.’ Despite a United Nations’ report suggesting that eighty percent of this oceanic debris came from land, very little research has focused upon freshwater systems even though they act as conduits from land to sea.
Dr. Sherri “Sam” Mason’s research group was among the first to study plastic pollution within freshwater systems. The group’s work started within the largest freshwater ecosystem in the world: the Laurentian Great Lakes of North America. It has evolved into numerous other related studies. Most recently this work captured international attention with their studies showing the pervasiveness of microplastics within basic human consumables: tap water, beer, sea salt and bottled water.
Dr. Mason will present an overview of what plastic is, its proliferation in our society, and its emergence as one of the most prominent environmental pollutants.
A professor of chemistry and a leading researcher in freshwater plastic pollution, Dr. Mason’s award-winning work has drawn international attention to the threats posed by microplastics and led to the passage of national measures banning microbeads. She currently serves as sustainability coordinator at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College.
The Marvin Pertzik World Water Day Lecture is held each year in conjunction with World Water Day, a means of focusing attention on the importance of fresh water and advocating for the sustainable management of freshwater resources. This year’s World Water Day theme is about water and climate change—and how the two are inextricably linked.