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Marcus Eriksen Deliver Michael Lester Wendt Character Lecture

By University Relations Staff

DUBUQUE, Iowa - Environmental scientist and educator Marcus Eriksen will deliver the spring Michael Lester Wendt Character Lecture, "Life on the Mississippi: A Journey from Lake Itasca to Waikiki River to Save Our Synthetic Seas," at 7:00 p.m. Monday, March 14, 2022, in John and Alice Butler Hall, Heritage Center.

The lecture, hosted by the University of Dubuque's Wendt Center for Character Education, is free and open to the public.

During his lecture, Eriksen will share how a decade of research on plastics in the world's oceans began in Lake Itasca in Minnesota at the headwaters of the Mississippi River. The five-month drift to the Gulf of Mexico launched the 5 Gyres Institute, co-founded by Eriksen and his wife, Anna Cummins, to research the plastic pollution problem and advocate for solutions. Their discovery of plastic microbeads in the Great Lakes led to the 2015 Microbead-Free Waters Act.

Along with his team, Eriksen launched another 20 research expeditions across all oceans beginning with a voyage to Hawaii aboard JUNK, a raft made from 15,000 plastic bottles and an airplane fuselage. The interplay of novel science, corporate engagement, policy, media, and public perception shared during the lecture will tell a story of discovery, despair, hard work, and a few wins, leaving the audience with more hope than when they started.

Eriksen is not only co-founder and director of science and innovation at the 5 Gyres Institution, but he is also the executive director and co-founder of Leap Lab. Having sailed around the world, he researches the global distribution and ecological impacts of plastic pollution, publishing the first global estimate of all plastic floating in the world's oceans. Eriksen chronicled his experiences traveling the Mississippi and the Pacific in My River Home and Junk Raft. Some local students are familiar with Eriksen as the Dubuque Community School District's Language Arts 7 classes read Trash Vortex, which mentions his work.

Committed to building stronger communities through art, science, adventure, and activism, Eriksen helps consumer brands and municipalities worldwide understand the systems and sources of plastic pollution in their region and put in place preventative strategies to stop the flow of plastic from land to sea.

As a passionate advocate for the environment, Eriksen will appear in a variety of venues throughout the area leading up to the Michael Lester Wendt Character Lecture.

A casual presentation and meet and greet with Eriksen will be held from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Saturday, March 12, 2022, at the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium. A 45-minute presentation will begin at 6:00 p.m. The event is open to the public. A cash bar and light refreshments will be available.

Eriksen also plans to speak to local middle school students, meet with UD students, and present at a naturalist conference.

For more information, please contact the Wendt Center for Character Education at 563.589.3440 or