World Oceans Day: IHE Delft alumna calls on all to close the tap of plastic pollution

Written by Susanna Lööf, on 8 June 2022

To celebrate World Oceans Day, 8 June, we checked in with an IHE Delft alumna whose work is focused on protecting these crucial bodies of water.

Dr. Maria Gabriela Alvarez Mieles, of Ecuador, graduated from IHE Delft in 2019 with a PhD in Water Sciences and Ecohydrology. She now is an Environmental Manager at The Ocean Cleanup, a non-profit organization based in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, that aims to clean up floating ocean plastic pollution.

Working with oceans was an easy choice for Gabriela:

“As a biologist and environmentalist, I always think about biodiversity. If we want to maintain the oceans’ biodiversity in the long-term, we must take action by protecting endangered marine species, as well as coastal mangroves and sanctuary areas such as coral reefs” she said. 

River projects

As an Environmental Manager, Gabriela provides expertise on The Ocean Cleanup’s river projects, which aim to stop the flow of plastic pollution already before it reaches oceans. If that succeeds, it would mean a lot less plastic reaching the oceans.

Oceans play a key role in climate regulation balancing the earth’s temperature: they produce more than half of our planet’s oxygen, and they absorb a similar amount of carbon dioxide.
Dr. Maria Gabriela Alvarez Mieles


“River emissions to oceans are in the order of 1 million tons per year, and according to one of our published studies, 1,000 rivers are responsible for almost 80% of river plastic emissions,” she said, adding that she is involved in work focusing on the Dominican Republic’s River Ozama and Malaysia’s Klang River. 

Her duties include studying environmental and social aspects, and identifying, addressing and preventing environmental concerns that could result from the organization’s operation and use of technology. She also liaises between her colleagues and external partners, and she provides critical feedback on environmental impact assessments developed by consultants.

In line with the theme for 2022 World Oceans Day – Revitalization – Collective Action for the Ocean - Gabriela appeals to all to help close the tap of plastic pollution that ends up in the oceans.

“I encourage everybody to decrease the use of unnecessary plastic on their daily lives. Mismanaged plastic in our cities will reach the rivers and sadly will end up in the oceans,” she said.  “But we can all do something! Day by day, family by family, from small communities to local governments: everyone can contribute.”

The United Nations in 2008 recognized 8 June as World Oceans Day.



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