Marcus Eriksen is the Research Director and cofounder of the 5 Gyres Institute. He studies the global distribution and ecological impacts of plastic marine pollution, which has included expeditions sailing through all 5 subtropical gyres, Bay of Bengal, Southern Ocean and inland lakes and rivers, most recently publishing the first global estimate of plastic pollution floating in the world’s oceans, totaling 270,000 metric tons from 5.25 trillion particles.
In 2000 he traveled to Midway Atoll, finding hundreds of Laysan Albatross with plastic pouring out of their stomachs, and that experience narrowed his focus to plastics. He received his Ph.D. in Science Education from University of Southern California in 2003, months before embarking on a 2,000 mile, 5 month journey down the Mississippi River on a homemade raft of plastic bottles to bring attention to this issue. Again, in 2008 he rafted across the Pacific Ocean, this time floating a Cessina aircraft on 15,000 plastic bottles from Los Angeles to Hawaii (junkraft.com). The journey, 2,600 miles in 88 days, brought attention to the work of the 5 Gyres Institute, the organization he cofounded with his wife Anna Cummins. Future research will continue to study the distribution, density and impact of plastic pollution on the world’s oceans, while simultaneously supporting campaigns to drive design and system solutions to curb the problem at the source.