UW-Superior to welcome NOAA Marine Debris Program director to campus

The University of Wisconsin-Superior will welcome Nancy Wallace, director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Marine Debris Program, to campus on Tuesday, Nov. 28, at 1 p.m.

During her time on campus, Wallace will meet with Associate Professor of Chemistry Dr. Lorena Rios Mendoza and student researchers, and will also tour multiple laboratories used in the study of environmental chemistry pollution, specifically microplastics in our oceans and Great Lakes.

Wallace oversees federal efforts to research, prevent and reduce the impacts of marine debris in the United States. With 10 years of experience in ocean policy, her work has ranged from resource conservation with the National Park Service, to developing sustainable catch limits for fisheries off the U.S. East Coast, to efforts to improve water quality in the Gulf of Mexico. Wallace holds a master’s degree in Marine Affairs and Policy from the University of Miami and a bachelor’s degree in biology from Fairfield University.

Rios-Mendoza has gained national and international attention for the unique work she and her team at UW-Superior are doing to understand the sources, impacts and solutions to increased plastics in oceans and the Great Lakes. Microplastics, microbeads and plastic fibers, are being found in water worldwide. These tiny plastics attract toxins, are eaten by aquatic bugs and fish and make their way up the food web for human consumption.

Rios-Mendoza was the first to discover microplastic beads in the Great Lakes, which she presented on at the 2012 American Chemical Society Conference. Data and research findings from the lab helped the State of Wisconsin become a frontrunner in banning the manufacturing and sale of personal care products containing microbeads, which have since been banned nationwide through the Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015.

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