Women remain under-represented in science, sailing and exploration, and eXXpedition is passionate about addressing this with positive role models.

Today, the 8th International Day of Women and Girls in Science Assembly is taking place at the UN HQ, New York City. People are coming together to put women and girls, science, and technology at the heart of sustainable development programs. 

To celebrate, we wanted to spotlight some Ambassadors who have been making breakthrough contributions to ocean and microplastic research. 

Laura Leiva

Laura Leiva – science marketeer, marine biologist, and lobster expert – joined us for Leg 2 of our North Pacific expedition in 2018 as a Bursary Placement. She recently returned from Heligoland, a small German island, where she has spent 3 years completing her PhD.

Passionate about crustaceans, and the future of ocean health, Laura  investigated the effects of temperature, noise and acidification of Heligoland’s juvenile lobster populations. Heliogoland is a wildlife haven and honey pot for marine-enthusiasts. Moreover, Heligoland is the only place in Germany where you can find the species of lobster Laura was studying!

Laura has already published her research in 2 scientific journals. Alongside her scientific superpowers, Laura is also a great storyteller. She would love to communicate her findings to a wider audience, beyond the “scientific” readership that a typical journal article receives. To do so, she is working hard to publish her research in Frontiers for Kids – a journal tailored specifically to young people that puts the detail associated with “adult” journals into more accessible formats.

Laura is now combining her storytelling and scientific superpower skills, as a science marketeer for siTOOLs – a German-based biotech.

Dr. Imogen Napper

Imogen joined us for Leg 2 of our North Pacific expedition. Last week, Dr Imogen Napper  attended a panel discussion about climate anxiety at the Eden Project, Cornwall, UK. She has recently moved to the Bahamas where she will be working at @ceibahamas teaching  and doing pollution-focused research. 


Just before Christmas, Imogen hosted a discussion at our London Ocean Drinks. Her discussion adressed the connection between plastic pollution and climate change. The talk engaged a lively conversation with our community, and opened eyes to the often-forgotten-about connections between the two. 

Dr. Winnie Courtene-Jones

In November 2022 the second scientific paper from eXXpedition Round the World, ‘Synthetic microplastic abundance and composition along a longitudinal gradient traversing the subtropical gyre in the North Atlantic Ocean’ was published demonstrating how microplastic particles differ across the Atlantic Ocean.

In a virtual event on the 10th January 2023, Round the World Science lead, Dr Winnie Courtene-Jones discussed some key findings from the paper, alongside Emily Penn and Simon Van Gennip (Mercator Ocean International).

This thought provoking discussion touched on some key questions: How much plastic is out there? What type of plastic is it? How is it distributed? Why do we need to monitor it? And ultimately – can we gain a better picture of where it’s come from? 

Quoting directly from Winnie herself:  “plastic in the ocean comes from everywhere…While that makes the monitoring much more complicated, it also makes it clear that we really need a global strategy. Our first paper, in the Caribbean, reached the same conclusion. This is an international challenge. We need a united effort to make a difference. Water doesn’t obey territorial borders.” 

You can watch the full discussion below, or head to this blog to read the highlights!

Taylor Maddalene

eXXpedition Ambassador, Taylor Maddalene was invited to present the findings from our Caribbean research paper at the 7th IMDC in Busan this September.

Taylor is a PhD Student in Environmental Engineering. She is also the Director of the Circularity Assessment Protocol with the Jambeck Research Group at the University of Georgia. Taylor joined us for the 2nd leg of our Virtual Voyages to Fiji. 

Held every four years, the IMDC saw Taylor present to a diverse range of stakeholders about the findings from our CAP in the Caribbean.  Attended by academic, industry, and government officials, it was great seeing our research presented on such an international stage!

Prof. Jenna Jambeck

Professor Jenna Jambeck recently received the prestigious MacArthur fellowship grant. 

Jenna will be using the grant to continue developing research methods to understand and address global plastic pollution. Two of these methods – the Circularity Assessment Protocol and Marine Debris Tracker App –  were critical to our Round the World expedition. 

They provide a platform to collect community-level data that includes information about mismanaged waste and waste infrastructure. This data will inform decisions aiming to reduce land-based plastic pollution. 

During eXXpedition Round the World (RTW), we conducted the first holistic assessment of marine and land-based plastic pollution in the Southern Caribbean. eXXpedition did this in conjunction with Jenna and the University of Georgia. Jenna’s methodology was critical to the development and publication of our Caribbean Research Paper  – Source, Sea and Sink – a holistic approach to understanding plastic pollution in the Southern Caribbean – which was published in Science of the Total Environment (November 2021).

Take a look at this video to find out more about Jenna’s research and her Macarthur Award.

Natalie Fox

Natalie is on a mission to convert the world’s 35 million surfers into ocean citizen scientists.

As coordinator of the ReGeneration Surf – a coalition between 4 Portugal-based organisations including Mossy Earth, Seaforester, Zero Waste Lab and Oceans and Flow, and the World Surf League and WSL Pure  – initiative, Natlie is busy bringing life back to the Portuguese coastline through a restorative sea kelp planting project. 

Natalie is hoping to galvanise support from fellow surfers, in her mission to convert a new generation of citizen scientists. 

 In addition, Natalie recently published her Masters Thesis, which looked at the connection between ocean literacy and surfers. Having established a connection between the two, Natalie is communicating her findings to help other surfers become ocean gatekeepers. 

You can read more about Natalie’s work in our recent Superpower Story blog, where we discuss her change-making mission in more detail. 

Women remain under-represented in science, sailing and exploration, and eXXpedition is passionate about addressing this with positive role models. Which is why, to quote our Founder Emily Penn, “it made sense to gather teams of talented women from all disciplines; to experience the plastic problem, collect data, make connections, and figure out how to tackle it together.” 

For Emily, “there is something unique about taking an inspired group of women to sea. Boundaries are let down as the crew overcome immense challenges together. Bonds form fast and last for life.”

To date, 257 women, from over 40 nationalities, aged between 18-70, have joined a voyage with us. Going forwards, we hope to continue building our community, and in turn inspire many more women into ever-critical science, technology and innovation roles.