This is part of our on-going series to introduce the fantastic scientists behind the science of eXXpedition Round Britain
Let’s meet Stephanie Wright!
Name: Dr Stephanie Wright
Institution Affiliation: King’s College London
Position: Early Career Research Fellow
Web URL: https://kclpure.kcl.ac.uk/portal/stephanie.wright.html
General Research Interest: The environmental and human health impacts of microplastics.
Science and plastics
Briefly describe your background:
I graduated with a Marine Biology BSc in 2010 from Newcastle University. I then completed a PhD at the University of Exeter, which focused on the potential for microplastics to cause harm in the marine environment. In 2015, I joined King’s College London, where I am currently an MRC-funded early-career research fellow in the MRC-PHE Centre for Environment and Health. My research focuses on the potential for microplastics to impact human health.
Why are you interested in plastics (or contaminants) in the marine environment:
Plastic has a key role in contemporary society. However, our consumption exceeds our capacity to not only manage plastic waste, but to understand the environmental and health impacts its permanency presents. What I find most fascinating is the various pathways in which a seemingly inert material could cause harm – from the inflammatory potential of microplastics as a non-degradable particle to its toxic potential as a carrier of harmful chemicals to its pathogenic threat as a raft for its own ‘micro-plasti-biome’.
What’s the most interesting thing you have discovered through your research? (Plastics or otherwise!)
During my PhD, we discovered that microplastics, free of harmful chemicals, were able to impact the health of sand-dwelling marine lug worms. The worms exposed to microplastics had less energy, which suggests their survival, growth and reproduction could become compromised. To our knowledge, this was independent of any harmful chemicals which microplastics might carry, highlighting that an influx of ‘inert’ non-degradable, synthetic particles in the environment alone can cause harm.
What advice would you give citizen scientists?
Understand what you are testing or what your research question is. Be rigorous, thorough and careful! Your results need to be robust and reliable, especially when they could lead to policy change.
Who do you admire the most (dead or alive)? This is hard, Mary Wollstonecraft was pretty radical…and Diana Ross because she is simply the queen of motown AND disco.
What’s the most delightful word you can think of? Irridescent
What gives you hope for the future of our marine environment? Sylvia Earle
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given? I think it was Fatboy Slim who once had an album called ‘Be Here Now’, which resonates with my mum’s advice of ‘live for the moment’. Akin to the philosophical acronym YOLO, I suppose.
What’s your favourite marine creature? Christmas tree worm
Recommend a book, article or author, please! The Sellout by Paul Beatty or anything by George Orwell
If you could put just one thing at the top of your bucket list, what would it be? Kayaking around the bio-luminescent bay in Puerto Rico at night, with humpback whales breaching nearby, covered in the phosphorescent algae, and manta rays swimming below. With some Northern Soul playing in the background. Nothing too flashy.
Thank you Stephanie – for answering our questions and for helping us with eXXpedition Round Britain!
Keep your eye on our blog for more scientist and crew interviews, as well as regular crew updates as our team sails Round Britain!