About me

I am a second year PhD Researcher at University College Cork (Ireland) studying microplastic pollution in the freshwater environment. The aim of this three year research project is to investigate the ecotoxicological effects of microplastics in a range of aquatic organisms (both plant and animal). It is funded by the Irish EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and it will contribute to new Irish policies!

Why this blog?

I started this blog back in 2014, way before even knowing I would do a PhD. I had just submitted my MSc thesis looking at the uptake, adsorption and bioaccumulation of microbeads in macroinvertebrates and seaweed. There was no much information about microplastics –  definitely not in Spanish – available to the general public. I had read hundreds of papers and I felt I could create something new. My aim was, and still is, to bring factual science to the general public. Also, one of my main motivations always has been to do this both to the english and spanish speaking world.

Now, three years later I see running this website from a different perspective. I truly believe that becoming a successful scientist goes beyond a thesis and papers. I believe that the other side of being a scientist is to communicate and to be able to “translate” your findings in a way that the general public can appreciate. This is why, I have become very interested in science communication and public awareness. I hope that, with the little free time I enjoy now, I will manage to bring my passion to you, whatever your scientific background will be.

If you are curious about me…

One day when I was 16 I visited my local library and I opened a special book about climate change. I knew nothing about nature but reading the book changed my life. That was the day I decided that I would be an Environmentalist.  Some years later, in 2014, I graduated from Environmental Science in Salamanca (Spain) and undertook one of the greatest experiences of my life: I travelled to Cape Verde (Africa) to volunteer for BIOS.cv,  a loggerhead turtle conservation camp. If I needed another reason to fall in love with the ocean, it would have been the beautiful view of a Capeverdian, virgin beach and the baby turtles racing towards the sea.

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But after a very heavy storm I noticed something horrendous: plastics. Where did they come from? How did they get there? Who’s responsible? So many questions came to my mind. I felt amazed and worried.  I remember flying back home reading about how our plastics are polluting the oceans. I had found my passion.

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Later in 2014 I started an MSc degree in Wildlife Management and Conservation at Reading University (England). I learnt a lot about conservation and endangered species (and birdwatching!). Up to that point, I always had the feeling of being a proper environmentalist, you know; recycling all my rubbish, taking public transport, never wasting water and so on. But when I looked around me, I was surrounded by single use plastics! So I decided to put a lab coat on and do my master’s thesis on ecotoxicology, testing microbeads and the potential bioaccumulation in the marine food chain. The Problem With Plastic started as a blog just after submitting the thesis in 2015 to show the issue and how small changes in our lives can make big differences.

Over 2016, I dedicated my spare time to volunteer for a British environmental organisation called City to Sea (Bristol) to prevent plastic entering the rivers and seas.  Volunteering has been key in my development as an environmentalist which also brought me to live in the Galápagos islands for six weeks. There I got the opportunity to join Ecology Project International and not only help the team to conserve the Galapagos Green turtle but also to advise them on plastic pollution. Here, I also want to say that the Galápagos Islands go beyond Darwin’s legacy. Their amazing local people are full of kindness, dreams and laughs, the gorgeous landscapes will enchant you and – of course – the out of this world fauna …

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Back to Spain, I applied for this PhD which I started in April 2017 and here I am now!

I hope you find this site interesting and inspiring.

You can find the official website of the PhD here

Alicia