Staffordshire Uni scientist receives Churchill Fellowship

Dr Gwinnett was recognised for her environmental research and received the Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship this March

A forensic scientist from Staffordshire University has been recognised with a prestigious scholarship for her research into the global problem of plastic pollution.

Dr Claire Gwinnett, Associate Professor of Forensic and Crime Science, is among only 150 people to receive a Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship this year.

Dr Gwinnett specialises in microfibre analysis and was part of the research team that first discovered evidence of deep-sea animals ingesting microplastics.

Funding from The Winston Churchill Memorial Trust will allow Dr Gwinnett to build on this research by working with international experts and undertaking an expedition along the Hudson River in North America.

Dr Gwinnett will travel across the USA and Australasia visiting scientists who work in the analysis of microplastics and play an important part in education around plastic pollution. 

In particular, she will be working with the Rozalia project on the 2018 expedition along the Hudson River, sampling microplastics from both the river and the air from onboard the famous American Promise, the greenest sailing research vessel in the world.  

“Microplastics is currently a major issue for the planet,” Dr Gwinnett explained, “it has been found that these plastic particulates are everywhere including in our drinking water and in the food we eat.”

“I feel honoured to achieve such an award and I am very excited to be collaborating with top researchers in microplastic analysis,” she continued.

For the project, Dr Gwinnett will investigate different international practices in microplastic research and identify best practice which can be adopted for use in environmental research in the UK. 

On the importance of the research, Dr Gwinnett said: “Currently, there is no one standardised method for the characterisation and quantification of microplastics globally which is needed if we are ever going to truly know the extent of this pollution and the effect on marine life and humans. This makes this an excellent topic for the Fellowship which aims to encourage international collaboration to solve real issues such as this.”

To read more from Dr Claire Gwinnett on plastic pollution visit The Conversation.