Plastic Pollution Expert to Speak on Gannon’s Campus

Posted: March 10, 2017

As part of the yearlong Culture and Climate Change, Gannon University will present a lecture titled "Perils of Plastic," from 7-8 p.m. March 14 in Room 104 of the Zurn Science Center, 143 W. Seventh St.

Sherri Mason, Ph.D., professor of chemistry and chair of the department of geology and environmental sciences at the State University of New York at Fredonia, will discuss how microplastics have infiltrated our water sources and how the presence of these plastics affects humans and other life forms.

Microplastics are tiny particles that are added to cosmetic and personal care items to give them an abrasive property. They can be found in toothpaste, deodorants, body washes, hand cleansers and facial scrubs.

The study of plastic pollution began in the world's oceans and most notably focused on what an area that has become known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Freshwater plastic pollution is a fairly new area of study, but Mason has taken the lead in the field with her research that revealed high levels of plastic found in Lake Erie.

Despite strong evidence that a vast majority of the debris in the oceans came from land and most likely was transported by freshwater systems, very little research has been focused on plastics in freshwater systems.

During the summers of 2012 and 2013, Mason and her team conducted the first-ever survey for plastic pollution within the open-waters of the Great Lakes. Her research was the subject of coverage from the New York Times and NPR to media in Sydney, Australia. Tuesday's lecture will present the results from the initial surveys, as well as additional investigations that were a result of these studies.

The Culture and Climate Change series is a response to "Laudato Si," Pope Francis' 2015 encyclical letter on climate change, which was inspired by the canticle written by his namesake, Saint Francis of Assisi, that "reminds us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us."