Ten emerging scientists have been awarded fellowships at top Commonwealth universities to explore innovative ways to tackle plastic litter in the ocean.
The Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU) announced the second cohort of the Blue Charter fellowship programme this week, which aims to advance the Commonwealth’s shared commitment to preserve and nurture the ocean.
ACU Chief Executive and Secretary General Joanna Newman said: “We are so proud to have the opportunity to launch a second cohort of Blue Charter Fellows - a group of outstanding researchers from universities across the Commonwealth.
“We look forward to showcasing the results that will make a difference in tackling one of the most pressing global issues of our time."
Each researcher will spend up to six months in an ACU member institution, as well as in industry, devising new ways to clean up marine litter, prevent plastics from getting into the sea, and developing alternatives to plastics.
The awards are funded by the UK’s Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy [BEIS] and supermarket chain Waitrose & Partners, supported by the Commonwealth.
Award recipient Taiwo Hammed said the fellowship could help make a difference in his community in Lagos, the fastest-growing mega-city in Nigeria. Through the programme, he will be exploring just how much plastic enters the ocean through lagoons and drains, why they end up in the water, what risks they create for humans and the environment, and how to sensitise the community on sustainable plastic waste management.
Dr Hammed said: “By the end of this fellowship, the targeted communities along coastline in Nigeria would have become a role model in the country. The transformation would surely arouse the interest of policy makers across the world to think locally and act globally.”
New fellow Shantanu Saha will be researching coconut husk cutlery, as a substitute for plastic knives and forks in Bangladesh. This includes market research and recommendations for developing policies for sustainable cutlery.
Dr Saha said: “Learning from the sustainable campus initiatives of a renowned UK university would help me to work on how that can be applied at Universities in Bangladesh. My research would help to develop valuable sustainable policies when the world is concerned about the environmental impact of the use of plastic materials.”
Other research topics include the use of plastic waste as feedstock to generate solar fuel and managing plastic use sustainably in the fishing industry.
Each fellow is entitled to up to £14,000 to cover travel, accommodation and daily needs. Research grants of up to £4,000 will also be awarded.
Commonwealth Head of Ocean and Natural Resources Nicholas Hardman-Mountford said: “The Commonwealth Blue Charter is about realising our shared aspirations for the ocean in ways that make real impact, and offering concrete, scientifically-backed solutions to the challenges we face. We therefore welcome the new cohort of fellows and look forward to the tangible applications of their research.”
Full list of Blue Charter fellows:
Dr Steven Barrow (Australia)
Dr Timothy Biswisk (Malawi)
Miss Takunda Chitaka (South Africa)
Ms Freya Croft (Australia)
Dr Taiwo Hammed (Nigeria)
Dr Oluwarotimi Olofinnade (Nigeria)
Dr Shantanu Saha (Bangladesh)
Prof. Salom Gnana Thanga Vincent (India)
Dr Ubida Ubida (Nigeria)
Miss Robyn Wright (United Kingdom)