Why is it raining plastics? Free virtual lecture

UPDATE April 20, 2022: See event details and watch the recording!


Freshwater and the University of Minnesota College of Biological Sciences are cohosting a free online lecture open to the public on Wednesday, April 13, from 12–1:30 pm.

St. Paul, Minnesota (March 1, 2022)—The public is invited the Moos Family Speaker Series on Water Resources. This event focuses on microplastic waste.

The featured speaker is Dr. Janice Brahney, an associate professor at Utah State University who holds a doctorate in environmental biogeochemistry, a master’s degree in earth science, and a bachelor’s degree in environmental science. Her research sits at the intersection of atmosphere and earth, focusing on how the atmosphere is a pathway for materials to enter surface waters, as well as the cause, effect, and mitigation of water quality impairment.

Much of Brahney’s work has produced results with far-reaching implications for policy, land-use regulation, and ecosystem monitoring. Her research has been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, National Geographic, Scientific American, and NPR, and she has been a guest on several podcasts including Big Picture Science and Quirks and Quarks.

Panel to follow talk

A panel conversation will follow Brahney’s talk, including panelists Dr. Elizabeth Minor, a professor at the University of Minnesota-Duluth whose research focuses on carbon cycling in aquatic systems, and Wayne Gjerde, a recycling market development coordinator with Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

Minor looks at the organic material that gets eaten in lake systems, the inorganic carbon released by respiration and fixed with photosynthesis, and how that inorganic carbon acts as a buffer stabilizing pH against inputs of acids (such as acid rain or acidic mine waste). In studying natural organic matter in these systems, she also found unnatural organic matter—in other words, microplastics. Since then she has also been working to characterize microplastics in the water, fish, and sediments of lake systems.

Researchers have found plastic microfibers in water, in sediment, and in fish stomachs, but they’re still investigating what happens next. Minor and her lab group are working to measure the amount of smaller plastic particles in the environment so that toxicologists can use the data in their studies.

Gjerde consults with startup and expanding companies in the areas of finance, new product development, business plan development, sales, and marketing. He has worked in the private and public sector, and is a current board member of the National Recycling Coalition. Gjerde earned his Bachelor of Science in business administration at St. John’s University-Collegeville, Minnesota. He also has attended the Minnesota Bankers Commercial Lending School and Robert Morris Associates Commercial Lending School.

Freshwater’s website has details and registration: https://freshwater.org/moos-family-lecture-series.

About Freshwater

Freshwater’s mission is to inspire and empower people to value and preserve our freshwater resources. Since 1968, Freshwater has been a leading public nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving freshwater resources, their surrounding watersheds, and drinking water. For more information, please visit freshwater.org. To see other press releases, visit freshwater.org/in-the-media.

Contact for more information

Gretchen Zampogna at gzampogna@freshwater.org