Atlantic & Arctic Lighthouse Weekly Hour with MAELSTROM (S02E05)

Atlantic & Arctic Lighthouse Weekly Hour with Marine MAELSTROM (s02e05)

On March 20th, 2024 from 14:00-16:00 CET, we had the fourth MAELSTROM webinar, titled “One Ocean, One Health: Current Perspectives on Marine Litter in Ecosystem and Human Health”, which fulfilled its promise to be a thought-provoking and exciting event. It aimed to provide a platform to explore our current understanding of the impacts of Marine Litter, in particular plastic pollution, on both ecosystem and human health. The webinar brought together leading academics to discuss novel research findings and developments in marine and human health research, and the innovative solutions that hold promise for a cleaner future. The objective was to engage in insightful discussions around the current state of the art, share new perspectives, explore technological and societal solutions, and inspire positive action.

MAELSTROM is a four-year project Funded by the European Commission, under the H2020 Programme. The project compiles a consortium of 14 international partners led by the Institute of Marine Sciences of the Italian National Research Council (CNR-ISMAR). The 14 project partners span academia and industry, using the expertise of research institutes, enterprises, and NGOs from 8 European countries. MAELSTROM’s main goal is to reduce the impacts of marine litter in coastal ecosystems by identifying accumulation hotspots and removing the existing litter from the coastal seabed and the water column of rivers before it reaches the sea.

MAELSTROM designs, manufactures, and integrates scalable, replicable, and automated technologies with renewable energy to identify, remove, sort, and transform all types of collected marine litter into valuable raw materials. MAELSTROM offers innovative solutions to remove, sort, and recycle marine litter by consolidating experts in ecosystem ecology, pollution, robotics, recycling companies, NGOs and businesses, and collectively tackling the issue with tangible outcomes strengthening a circular economy and improving the health and cleanliness of our oceans and coasts. Specifically, the project has implemented two innovative and environmentally sustainable technologies to achieve this goal. The Bubble Barrier Vila do Conde is designed to collect and remove floating and sub-surface litter in rivers before it enters the sea by using compressed air and the natural flow of the river to divert litter to the catchment system, co-powered by renewable energy from fixed and floating photovoltaic panels. In addition, the Robotic Seabed Cleaning Platform is a completely new solution for the removal of small and large items from the seabed which has been successfully tested in the Venice lagoon coastal area. An AI-driven robot is utilised to identify and segregate plastics collected from the coastal environment, and three new processes have been used to recycle the retrieved organic and plastic litter. Within the MAESLTROM project, removed plastics are transformed into higher-value materials whose characteristics, performance, and economic value are assessed for future marketization. The project focuses on the involvement of the local, national, and international stakeholders, paving the way to the long-term adoption of the technologies by the local stakeholders in the pilot areas.

Watch the YouTube recording here.

Programme (CET):

14:00 – 14:05 – Introduction and welcome, Dr. Garry Kett, CIIMAR-UP

14:05 – 14:15 – Overview of the MAELSTROM project to sustainably remove and manage marine litter Dr. Vanessa Moschino, CNR-ISMAR, IT

14:15 – 14:25 – The role of stakeholder engagement in marine litter management, Prof. Isabel Sousa Pinto, CIIMAR-UP

14:25 – 14:35 – The human dimension of marine litter: from the societal impacts to the solutions, Dr. Kayleigh Wyles, University of Plymouth, UK

14:35 – 14:45 – Break

14:45 – 14:55 – POLYRISK: Towards a Risk Assessment Framework for Micro- and Nanoplastics, Prof. Raymond Pieters, Utrecht University, NL

14:55 – 15:05 – PlasticsFatE: Lessons from microplastics research for standardisation, policy and regulation, Dr. Rudolf Reuther, ENAS, DE

15:05 – 15:30 – Roundtable Discussion, moderated by Dr. Garry Kett, CIIMAR-UP

15:30 – 15:50 – Audience Q&A, moderated by Dr. Luis Vieira, CIIMAR-UP

15:50 – 16:00 – Closing remarks, Prof. Isabel Sousa Pinto, CIIMAR-UP


Vanessa Moschino

Research Scientist, Co-PI of MAELSTROM at the Italian National Research Council (CNR-ISMAR)

Presentation: “Overview of the MAELSTROM project to sustainably remove and manage marine litter” (download)

Vanessa Moschino is a researcher at the National Research Council of Italy, Institute of Marine Science. She received her doctorate in Ecology & Ecophysiology from the University of Algarve, Faculty of Marine and Environmental Sciences in 2007. Her main research interests include marine ecotoxicology and biomonitoring, understanding the effects of stressogenic agents natural and anthropogenic on bivalves through biomarker determination. Vanessa is highly experienced in the extraction and characterization of microplastics from water and sediment samples, the design and implementation of in situ surveys, and the assessment of marine litter removal technologies. She has been involved in numerous national and international initiatives and projects such as LIFE – GHOST – Techniques to reduce the impacts of ghost fishing gear and improve biodiversity in coastal areas of the North Adriatic; RAS – Anthropogenic pressure and priority pollutants in marine protected areas of Sardinia and Monitoring programs under the Marine Strategy Framework Directive.

Isabel Sousa Pinto

Professor at the University of Porto and Head of the Aquatic Biodiversity and Conservation group at Interdisciplinary Centre for Marine and Environmental Research (CIIMAR)

Presentation: “The role of stakeholder engagement in marine litter management” (download)

Isabel Sousa Pinto has a PhD in Marine Biology (phycology) from the UCSB, USA. She is a Professor at the University of Porto and Head of the Aquatic Biodiversity and Conservation group at Interdisciplinary Centre for Marine and Environmental Research (CIIMAR). She is also member of its Board of Directors. Her main research has been on marine biodiversity and ecosystem functioning, and how is impacted by climate change, invasive species and other anthropogenic drivers. She has a particular focus on the seaweed flora as well as on algal ecophysiology, cultivation and promotion of its sustainable use and was member of the POGO working group “Planning the implementation of a global long-term observing and data sharing strategy for macroalgal communities”. She is also working on the science-policy – society interfaces and on promoting ocean literacy. She is serving in different European and International steering Committees as Euromarine, European Ocean Observation System (EOOS) and AtlantOS to develop the biodiversity component of the Ocean Observations and its integration with the other observation components and with the European Marine Board in to identify gaps in biological observations and produce recommendations to fill them. At global level she is the co-chair of MBON – Marine Biodiversity Observation Network from GEO BON. She was part of the Portuguese delegation to the Convention on Biological Diversity (2006-2011) and has been since working with IPBES – the Intergovernmental Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, was the Portuguese Representative in this platform until 2018, when was elected to its Multidisciplinary Expert Panel, a panel that supervises the scientific work of the Platform, becoming later also co-chair of its Knowledge and Data task force. Besides more than 180 scientific publications, she was a Coordinating Lead Author for the Regional Assessment of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services in Europe and Central Asia of IPBES.

Kayleigh Wyles

Associate Professor in Environmental Psychology at the University of Plymouth

Presentation: “The Human Dimension of Marine Litter: From the Societal Impacts to the Solutions (download)

Kayleigh is a world-leading environmental psychologist. Her research focuses on how people engage with the natural world (in particular the aquatic world) and the impacts these have on both the individual (e.g., impacting human health and wellbeing, and their connection to nature) and on the environment (e.g., through understanding individual human behaviour and designing interventions to encourage more pro-environmental behaviours). A key driver of all of this work is to be useful and applied locally, nationally, and internationally. As well as working with different disciplines, Kayleigh works with a range of stakeholders, from NGOs to advising decision makers, such as contributing to parliamentary enquiries and advising the United Nations through GESAMP (Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection) and the recent Scientists’ Coalition for an Effective Plastics Treaty.

Raymond Pieters

Associate Professor of Veterinary Medicine, Department Population Health Sciences, Institute for Risk Assessment Sciences (IRAS), One Health Toxicology at the Utrecht University and POLYRISK Project

Presentation: “Human toxicity of microplastics: Towards a Risk Assessment Framework for Micro- and Nanoplastic” (download)

Raymond Pieters is Associate Professor at IRAS, Utrecht University, and in addition full professor in Innovative Testing in Life Sciences & Chemistry at University of Applied Sciences Utrecht (UASU, Hogeschool Utrecht). His research is focused on understanding immunotoxicological effects of substances in food, airborne particles, and drugs. He is currently the Principal Coordinator of the Horizon 2020 funded project POLYRISK which investigates the impacts of microplastics on human health.

Rudolf Reuther

Senior Researcher & Consultantnt Sciences (IRAS), One Health Toxicology at tENAS (Environmental Assessments); PlasticsFatE

Presentation: “PlasticsFatE: Lessons from microplastics research for standardisation, policy and regulation Short overview (download)

Rudolf Reuther is the founder and head of Environmental Assessments (ENAS) with a PhD in environmental geochemistry from Heidelberg University (1983). He has been working as a researcher and consultant for more than 30 years in the field of environmental monitoring, hazard identification, exposure analysis and risk assessment of chemicals, including metals, persistent organics and more recently engineered nanomaterials. He is a specialist in developing and applying specific physicochemical characterization and ecotoxicological test methods to assess the behaviour, effect and fate of chemicals in water, air, soil systems. Based on his broad knowledge from various scientific fields and technical sectors, he has realized and managed many national and international research and contract work for various clients (mining, metal, mineral, pulp and paper, chemical industry, regulatory bodies and international organizations) with a main focus on environmental assessment of facilities, products and plans. He is currently the Scientific Coordinator of PlasticsFatE and is coordinating the five CUSP projects and 6 working groups 2023-2024.

Watch the YouTube recording here.