US-Norway Fulbright Student Program Awardee – Ligia Naveira

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program, a flagship initiative of the U.S. Department of State, offers a unique platform fostering mutual understanding between the United States and 140 other countries through the exchange of persons, skills, and knowledge. Ligia Naveira, a PhD Candidate at the Climate Change Institute advised by Dr. Paul Mayweski, has received an award from the Fulbright Program to delve into the study of microplastics in Norway. From August 2024 to May 2025, Naveira will study microplastics in collaboration with Dr. Udo Zimmermann at the University of Stavanger. 

The Fulbright research project at the University of Stavanger in Norway, “Plastic Pollution on Ice,” aims to investigate microplastics’ contamination, distribution, and possible ecological implications in the Jostedalsbreen Glacier in Norway. Glaciers, covering 10% of Earth’s land, act as time capsules, revealing insights about climate change and pollution. However, microplastics in glaciers have not received as much attention as needed, even though global warming could trigger these ice masses to release vast quantities of plastic debris, potentially disrupting ecosystems and entering the food chain. The overarching issue of global plastic pollution in remote areas can be addressed by pinpointing the origins and destinations of these plastics. The approach involves improving the current methodology to collect and analyze samples, along with using advanced imaging technology at the University of Stavanger. This first study will allow an understanding of how widespread the pollution is and will lay the groundwork for further studies in the Arctic, an area known for its challenging conditions.