Katharine Owens, PhD
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Katharine Owens, PhD

Katharine Owens, PhD

Talking Trash:
Collecting Debris for a Purpose

Associate Professor Katharine Owens from the Department of Politics, Economics, and International Studies has been awarded a $58,000 grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) Marine Debris Program to teach University of Hartford students about this important topic.

Marine debris is the term used to describe the persistent materials that accumulate in global waterways. Marine debris ranges from plastics to derelict fishing gear, and can include trash or litter from land sources as well as materials from storm wreckage. This global problem significantly impacts wildlife, human health, and the economy. Researchers estimate that around eight million metric tons of plastic enter global waterways each year. One study finds that removing just 10 percent of the traps from prime crustacean extraction grounds worldwide would improve harvest by $831 million annually.

Experts believe that only by focusing on the sources of marine debris and by taking the local context into account will we be able to solve this problem. With this research in mind, Owens submitted a proposal for NOAA funding to create and pilot an experiential service-learning course on marine debris, which is currently being offered as both a Politics course and an Honors seminar. Course participants are working with Owens to collect marine debris from Connecticut beaches and catalog what they find. They have already visited both Bluff Point State Park and Hammonasset State Park to collect debris.

Students will collaborate with Owens to produce a report and present the results to the Connecticut General Assembly. This course is one of the many ways University of Hartford students apply what they are learning to address real-world problems.

Students Helping Clean Long Island Sound

Students Helping Clean Long Island Sound