I’m interested in many aspects of sustainability, but have specialized in water policy for the last 20 years. Currently, I’m engaged in research on plastic pollution (locally and globally), youth civic engagement, and how we learn from images.

You can find my work on on Google Scholar and Research Gate

Read my quote in National Geographic here from the October 2019 Women of Impact issue.

Recent notable projects are described below!

RIVER ENGAGE: Freshwater Pollution Collaboration with Researchers in Uganda and Indonesia

River Engage is a collaboration among three National Geographic Explorers: Hannington Ochieng (Uganda), Puspita Kamil (Indonesia) and Katharine Owens (United States)

This 2-day workshop experience provides participants with the opportunity to:

  • Learn about the pollution problems from debris and litter facing a local river
  • Build skills in the process of collecting debris, making it more scientific and contributing to global databases
  • Gain expertise in using the Marine Debris Tracker App
  • Polish skills in communicating the results of a cleanup with local policy makers and governmental leaders

River Engage workshops took place in Uganda, Indonesia, and the United States in the spring of 2022.

View videos from the River Engage project on my YouTube channel

Engaging through the Arts

Using Social Media

Sharing with Community Groups

The Elevator Pitch

Writing an Op-Ed

Creating a Storycard

Making a 1-page policy summary

Engaging with local leaders

Creating and sharing a policy brief

Marine Debris Research in India

How is marine debris like an overflowing bucket of water? Check out this video to learn more– it was created by the talented filmmaker and photographer Morup Namgail.

In 2019 I spent six months in Thiruvananthapuram, India working with the University of Kerala’s Department of Environmental Science under a Fulbright Nehru grant to teach and conduct research on the issue of marine litter.

In collaboration with Dr. Jaya D.S. of the University (here we are in the top center photo below) I applied to a National Geographic Society grant to train educators and representatives from NGOs on simple scientific methods for collecting debris. This project became The National workshop on Experiential learning with Indian Educators on Marine debris and its management (NEIEM).


Students and faculty from the University of Kerala Department of Environmental Sciences in Thiruvananthapuram and the Environmentalist Foundation of India in Chennai

This video explains the methods we use and why they are important.

Materials available from the NEIEM workshop can be found below or on our ResearchGate page.

If you’d like to conduct your own beach or river cleanup, please use these materials freely-


Record debris using the Marine Debris Tracker App


How to Engage with local leaders

How to Write a Policy Brief

Policy Brief Template

Example Policy Brief_Connecticut

Example Report_NEIEM_Karamana River

All of this work was done in collaboration with Dr. Jaya D.S. of the University of Kerala Department of Environmental Science. The workshop was funded through the National Geographic Society and supported by the Fulbright Nehru program.

The work would not have been possible without the support of students and researchers in the Department of Environmental Science at the University of Kerala including Niyathi Vijay, Manikandan S., Alwyn Biju, Navami Rohini, Sonu Ulloor, and Lekshmi!

Marine Debris Research in Connecticut

In the spring of 2016, with support from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, I worked with college students to collect debris on Connecticut’s shoreline. In just a few hours at the beach we collected over 1600 individual pieces of debris, most of it plastic.

Some of what we found on CT shores

University of Hartford students

This project involved not just collecting debris on Connecticut’s shoreline, but also sharing the results with state lawmakers.

Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 2.25.17 PM

Sharing the results with policymakers at the Hammonnasset State Park

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