Keynote & Plenary Speakers


Welcome Ceremony & Plenary

Monday, March 12 | 9:30 AM – 12:00 PM


Welcome Speakers

Image of David Attenborough.Sir David Attenborough (Video Message)
For the last 60 years, David Attenborough has been one of the worldʼs leading natural history filmmakers, making landmark series including Life on Earth, Blue Planet and Planet Earth, seen by billions of people across the planet. His extraordinary career has spanned black and white, color, HD and 3D formats and his films have won multiple Emmys and British Academy (BAFTA) awards. David was knighted by the Queen in 1985 and was given Britainʼs highest honour, the Order of Merit. He has also received numerous other awards and is a fellow of the Royal Society.


Image of David Alvarez.Councilman David Alvarez | City of San Diego
Elected to the San Diego City Council in 2010, Councilmember Alvarez chairs the Environment Committee and Otay Mesa Enhanced Infrastructure Financing District Public Financing Authority. He is a member of the Smart Growth & Land Use, Infrastructure and Economic Development & Intergovernmental Relations Committees. He has been a regional leader in advocating for more park space in the South Bay, increasing and safeguarding San Diegoʼs water supply, border infrastructure and decreasing border wait times to increase trade and commerce, and creating more opportunities for local small businesses. David lives in Logan Heights with his wife Xochitl, their daughter Izel, son Javier and his father.


Image of Dr. Barbara Hendrie.

Dr. Barbara Hendrie, Director, North America | UN Environment
Dr. Barbara Hendrie is the Director of UN Environment North America. She has over two decades experience as a senior international diplomat/negotiator and development/humanitarian professional, working for both the United Kingdom and United States governments. She was a senior official in the United Kingdomʼs Department for International Development (DFID) from 1999 to 2015, and a senior political appointee of President Obama based in the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in 2015-2016. Barbara, a native of New York, has a Ph.D. and Masters in social anthropology from University College, London, UK, and a B.A. in English from Bowdoin College in Maine, USA. She is a dual US-UK citizen.


Image of Russell Callender.Dr. Russell Callender, Assistant Administrator for Ocean Services
and Coastal Zone Management | National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Dr. Russell Callender is the Assistant Administrator for NOAAʼs National Ocean Service. The National Ocean Service (NOS) addresses evolving economic, environmental and social pressures on our oceans and coasts. As Assistant Administrator, Dr. Callender provides strategic vision for NOS. He leads the implementation of activities to promote safe and efficient transportation and commerce, support preparedness and risk reduction, and advance stewardship, recreation, and tourism. Dr. Callender actively establishes and grows partnerships with other federal agencies, non-governmental organizations, academia, and industry. Dr. Callender has more than 20 years of science, policy, and management experience that includes senior positions throughout NOAA. Dr. Callender holds a Ph.D. in Geology from Texas A&M.




Image of Afroz Shah.Afroz Shah, Environmental Organizer | Mumbai, India
Afroz Shah is a young Indian lawyer from Mumbai who has become synonymous with the worldʼs largest beach clean-up project. In October 2015, Shah and his neighbor Harbansh Mathur, an 84-year-old who has since passed away, were frustrated with the piles of decomposing waste that had washed up and completely overwhelmed the cityʼs Versova beach. Determined to do something about it, the pair started cleaning up the beach themselves, one piece of rubbish at a time. Every weekend since, Shah has inspired volunteers to join him ‒ from slum-dwellers to Bollywood stars, from schoolchildren to politicians. This impressive effort inspired Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to make beach cleanups part of the Clean India surge. As a result, beach clean ups are being organized on 13 other beaches around the country, and similar efforts are being carried out around the world.



International Leadership Panel

Image of Chever Voltmer.Ms. Chever Voltmer, Acting Director | US State Department, Office of Ocean and Polar Affairs, Bureau of Oceans and International, Environmental and Scientific Affairs (Moderator)
A career member of the Foreign Service, Chever X. Voltmer currently serves as the Deputy Director of the Office of Oceans and Polar Affair in the State Departmentʼs Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental Affairs since August, 2016. Prior to that, she was Deputy Chief of Mission in Tallinn, Estonia and served on multiple overseas assignments. Washington posts include a detail as a trade negotiator at the U.S. Trade Representative and an assignment in the Departmentʼs Office of Multilateral Trade. She holds undergraduate degrees in economics and Russian studies and is a Distinguished Graduate of the National War College with a degree in National Security Studies.


Image of Ola Elvestuen.Mr. Ola Elvestuen, Minister of Climate and Environment | Norway
(Video Message)

Mr. Elvestuen was first elected to the Oslo City Council in 2003, and headed the City Development Committee from 2003 to 2011. He was city councilor for Environment and Transportation in Oslo during 2011-2013. Elvestuen was leader of the Oslo branch of the Liberal Party from 2000-2007, and has been deputy leader in the Liberal Party since 2008. In 2013, he was elected to Parliament, from Oslo, and he was re-elected in 2017. From 2013 to 2017 he chaired the parliamentary Committee on Energy and Environment. Elvestuen holds a Bachelorʼs degree from the University of Oslo, having studied Social Anthropology, Political Science and History.


Image of Stephen Lucas.Dr. Stephen Lucas, Deputy Minister | Environment Climate Change Canada
Dr. Stephen Lucas was appointed Deputy Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada on January 23, 2017. Prior to this post, Dr. Lucas served as Senior Associate Deputy Minister (Climate Change) and led ECCC activities in support of the development and adoption of the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change. Before joining ECCC, Dr. Lucas served in many government capacities, including as Deputy Secretary to the Cabinet for Plans and Consultations and Intergovernmental Affairs and Assistant Secretary, Economic and Regional Development Policy at the Privy Council Office. He has a Bachelor of Science in Geological Engineering from Queenʼs University and a Ph.D. in structural geology and tectonics from Brown University.


Image of Safri Burhanuddin.Dr. Safri Burhanuddin, Deputy Minister | Coordinating Ministry for Maritime Affairs, Republic of Indonesia
Currently the Deputy Minister for Human Resources, Sciences and Technologies and Maritime Culture, Coordinating Ministry for Maritime Affairs and Resources, Republic of Indonesia (since May 2015). Dr Safri has an Engineering Degree in Geology from the University of Padjadjaran (UNPAD) Bandung, an MSc in Marine Geology and a Doctorate in Marine Geology, both from the Universite de Bretagne Occidentale (UBO) in Brest, France. He is also a lecturer at Hasanuddin University, Makassar, Indonesia.


Image of Alain de Comarmond.Mr. Alain de Comarmond, Principal Secretary | Environment Department, Ministry of Environment, Energy and Climate Change, Republic of Seychelles
Mr. Alain de Comarmond serves as the Principal Secretary for Environment, of the Ministry of Environment, Energy and Climate Change for the Government of Seychelles. Mr. De Comarmondʼs area of expertise lies in general environmental science and management issues. Through various responsibilities within the Ministry responsible for Environment he has worked and discharged responsibilities in coastal management and adaptation, development control and environmental Impact Assessment, disaster management, pollution control, climate change. He is presently the head of the Environment Department responsible for biodiversity conservation and management. Mr. de Comarmond received a B.Sc. (Hons) Environmental Management, University of Wolverhampton, U.K.


Image of Habib N. El-Habr.Mr. Habib N. El-Habr, Coordinator | Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-Based Activities, United Nations Environment Programme
Habib N. El-Habr is the Coordinator of the Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-Based Activities of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). Dr. El-Habr also served as Director and Regional Representative of UNEPʼs Regional Office for West Asia in Bahrain. He joined UNEP in 1988, becoming Deputy Chief of the Freshwater Unit in Nairobi and then Deputy Director of the UNEP International Environment Technology Center in Japan as well as Deputy Coordinator of the Barcelona Convention Secretariat. Dr. El-Habr worked as a water research specialist at the National Scientific Research Council
in France before his UN career. He has a long experience in coastal and marine management, water management, and environmental health and assessment.




Wednesday, March 14 | 8:30 AM – 10:00 AM


Image of Senator Sheldon Whitehouse.Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (Video Message)
Sheldon Whitehouse, a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, plays a key role in crafting policies addressing environmental protection and climate change. In 2011, he cofounded the bipartisan Senate Oceans Caucus to increase awareness of issues facing the oceans and coasts. Whitehouse has long advocated for a dedicated funding source for ocean and coastal research and restoration. He created the National Oceans and Coastal Security Fund to support habitat preservation, ocean monitoring, fisheries management, and sustainable coastal development.


Youth Speaker

Image of Melati Wjisen.Melati Wjisen, Co-Founder | Bye Bye Plastic Bags
Melati is a 17-year old Indonesian/Dutch activist, born and raised on the island of Bali. She has co-founded Bye Bye Plastic Bags and has been leading the movement driven by youth for 5 years now. She is currently in her last year of High School at Green School Bali and is also a member of the Worldʼs Ocean Day Youth Advisory Council. Melati is passionate about the environment, humanity, and youth empowerment.



State of the Science Panel

Image of Matthew Cole.Matthew Cole, Lord Kingsland Fellow | Plymouth Marine Laboratory (Moderator)
Matthew Cole is an early career research scientist whose research focuses upon how human activity and pollution can affect the marine environment. Matthew conducted his PhD on the ʻImpact of microplastics on zooplanktonʼ at Plymouth Marine Laboratory and the University of Exeter from 2010-2014. His early research highlighted the risks microscopic plastic debris (microplastic) can pose to zooplankton. Following on from his PhD, Matthew was employed as a research fellow at the University of Exeter, investigating the impact of marine plastic on biota and ecosystem processes. Matthew returned to Plymouth Marine Laboratory in October 2017 as a Lord Kingsland Fellow where he is continuing to research how microplastic and pollutants are impacting on marine life.


Image of Chelsea Rochman.Dr. Chelsea Rochman, Assistant Professor | University of Toronto
Chelsea Rochman is an Assistant Professor at the University of Toronto in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. Chelsea has been researching the sources, sinks and ecological implications of plastic debris in marine and freshwater habitats for the past decade. Her work brings her to traditional and non-traditional waste sites, from the worldʼs remote ocean “garbage patches” to wastewater treatment plants and landfills around the world. She has published dozens of scientific papers in respected journals and has led international working groups about plastic pollution.


Image of Jenna Jambeck.Dr. Jenna Jambeck, Associate Professor | University of Georgia
Dr. Jenna Jambeck is an Associate Professor in the College of Engineering and Director of the Center for Circular Materials Management in the New Materials Institute at the University of Georgia. She teaches and has been conducting research on solid waste issues for over 20 years with related projects on marine debris since 2001. She specializes in global waste management issues and plastic contamination, as well as currently working in policy and environmental diplomacy in the International Informational Speakers Program for the US State Department conducting programs in South America, Southeast Asia, and Africa.


Image of Kara Lavender Law.Dr. Kara Lavender Law, Research Professor | Sea Education Association
Dr. Kara Lavender Law is a Research Professor at Sea Education Association (Woods Hole, MA), studying the sources, distribution, behavior and fate of plastic debris in the ocean. Dr. Lawʼs research focuses on the sources of plastic to the marine environment, understanding how ocean physics determines the distribution of plastic debris, and the degradation and ultimate fate of different plastic materials in the ocean. She serves as the co-principal investigator of the NCEAS Marine Debris Working Group, and holds a PhD in physical oceanography from Scripps Institution of Oceanography and a BS in mathematics from Duke University.




Thursday, March 15 | 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM


Panel on Corporate and Social Responsibility: Reducing Ocean Plastics Across Value Chains

Image of Nicholas Mallos.Nicholas Mallos, Director of the Trash Free Seas Program | Ocean Conservancy (moderator)
Nicholas Mallos is Director of the Trash Free Seas® Program at Ocean Conservancy. Nick oversees Ocean Conservancyʼs work on marine debris which include the annual International Coastal Cleanup, its international plastics initiative and the Trash Free Seas Alliance® (a co-operative group of businesses, conservationists and scientists focused on reducing plastic inputs into the ocean by 50% by 2025). Nick has testified before the U.S. Senate on the sources and impacts of plastic debris in the ocean, and routinely participates in international policy discussions at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, United Nations Environment Programme and other global fora.


Image of Elissa Foster.Elissa Foster, Senior Manager of Product Responsibility | Patagonia
Elissa is Senior Manager of Product Responsibility at Patagonia. She is responsible for researching and measuring the environmental impacts of Patagoniaʼs materials and implementing programs to reduce those impacts. Elissa has been working on environmental projects for Patagonia for twelve years. Prior to working in her current position at Patagonia, Elissa worked as an Environmental Specialist for the City of Ventura. Elissa has a BS degree in Zoology from UC Santa Barbara, Masterʼs degree in Environmental Science and Management from the Donald Bren School of Environmental Science and Management (UCSB), and a Doctorate of Environmental Science and Engineering from UCLA.


Image of Kim Johnson.Kim Johnson | Music Manager, Philanthropist, and Environmental Educator
Kim Johnson, with husband Jack, founded the Kōkua Hawaiʻi Foundation to support environmental education in Hawaiʼi and the Johnson Ohana Foundation to support environmental, art, and music education worldwide. As Jackʼs co-manager, Kim has taken a lead role in advancing greening initiatives for all aspects of Jack touring, and has served as creative lead in the development of fan engagement campaigns through their All At Once social action network. Throughout all of these efforts, Kim and Jack strive to raise awareness in support of sustainable local food systems and plastic free initiatives.


Image of Conrad Mackerron.Conrad Mackerron, Senior Vice President | As You Sow
Conrad MacKerron is Senior Vice President at As You Sow, an Oakland non-profit that promotes corporate social responsibility through shareholder advocacy. Conrad has more than a decade of experience managing corporate dialogues and shareholder advocacy initiatives on key social and environmental issues. He has engaged Coca-Cola, Colgate-Palmolive, PepsiCo, and Procter & Gamble on sustainable packaging; and Amazon, Apple, Best Buy, and Dell on electronic waste recycling. In the social arena, he has engaged Gap, McDonaldʼs, Nordstrom, Nike and Walt Disney on supply chain labor practices. His most recent focus challenges consumer brands to make plastic packaging more recyclable and to take more responsibility for improvement of recycling collection and processing systems.


Image of Stephen Sikra.Stephen Sikra, Associate Director, Corporate R&D, Global Product Stewardship | Procter & Gamble
Stephen Sikra is a Materials Science Engineer with more than 26 years at The Procter & Gamble Company where he is currently Associate Director, Corporate R&D, Global Product Stewardship with responsibilities for P&Gʼs global Solid Waste Management strategy and driving end-of-life innovations. His history includes management roles in process and package development, product supply operations, materials science innovations, and end-of-life solutions for P&G products and packages. Stephen is a champion for plastic recycling and a collaborative partner with many companies, trade organizations, and NGOs.



Closing Plenary

Friday, March 16 | 10:30 AM – 12:00 PM


Panel on a Multi-Sector Perspective: Next Steps in Combating Marine Debris

Image of Anna Cummins.Anna Cummins, Co-Founder and Global Strategy Director | 5 Gyres
Anna Cummins received her undergraduate degree in History from Stanford University, and her Masters in International Environmental Policy from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies. Anna spent much of her early youth playing in Santa Monica stormdrains and exploring beaches, experiences that sparked her interest in the land-sea connection. Anna has spent the last 25 years working in the environmental field, in marine conservation, bilingual outreach, and sustainability education. She and her husband founded 5 Gyres in 2009, to stop the flow of plastic pollution from source to sea through science, education, and adventure.


Image of Andrew Falcon.Andrew R. Falcon, CEO | Full Cycle Bioplastics
Andrew Falcon brings extensive commercial, operations, and general management expertise to his role as CEO of Full Cycle Bioplastics. A seasoned operating executive, Andrew’s experience with alternative materials, packaging, and zero-waste solutions makes him particularly well suited to lead Full Cycle’s transition from lab to commercial scale. Andrew is passionate in his belief that circular, regenerative solutions are essential for the long-term health of the planet, and that entrepreneurs, innovation and markets have the best chance to catalyze system-level change. Andrew lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife and two children and holds a BA in International Relations from Stanford University and an MBA from Harvard Business School.


Image of Albert George.Albert George, Director of Conservation | South Carolina Aquarium
Albert George is the first Director of Conservation for the South Carolina Aquarium and also the co-founder of the Amazon Reforestation Project. Previously, he worked as the Director of Education for Georgia Aquarium, Inc. Mr. George completed his B.S. in Marine Biology and Chemistry from Savannah State University and the P.R.E.P. program at Yale University concentrating in physiology and cellular molecular genetics. He has also completed a program of study from the Harvard University John F. Kennedy School of Government/MIT and a M.S. from the Georgia Institute of Technology.


Image of Von Hernandez.Von Hernandez, Global Coordinator | Break Free From Plastic Movement
Von Hernandez is a leading Filipino environmental activist currently serving as Global Coordinator of the Break Free from Plastic Movement, a dynamic movement of more than 1000 groups campaigning to end plastic pollution. Previously, he served as Global Development Director for Greenpeace International and as Executive Director of Greenpeace Southeast Asia. He co-founded environmental coalitions including the Philippinesʼ Ecowaste Coalition, Waste Not Asia, and the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives. In 2003, he was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize for his activism, which led to the first national ban on waste incineration. Von was recognized by Time magazine as one of its Heroes for the Environment in 2007.


Image of Jack Johnson.Jack Johnson, Musician and Environmentalist
Jack Johnson grew up surfing and playing guitar in Hawaii. Since 2001, he has released 7 studio albums and 2 live albums that have sold over 25 million copies worldwide. His Brushfire Records label and touring crew are leaders in greening the music industry, and his All At Once social action network connects fans with local non-profits at every show. Jack, with his wife Kim, founded the Kokua Hawaii Foundation to support environmental education in Hawaii and the Johnson Ohana Foundation to support environmental, art and music education worldwide. Through these efforts, Johnson supports plastic free initiatives and raises awareness about solutions to plastic ocean pollution.


Image of Steve Russell.Steve Russell, Vice President, Plastics Division | American Chemistry Council
Steve is Vice President, Plastics, at ACC. He leads a variety of programs to address the sustainability of plastics, and to finance recycling and waste management in the US and emerging economies. He helped create the World Plastics Council — CEOs from the worldʼs leading plastics companies to prioritize and fund systems to keep plastic out of our ocean. Mr. Russell previously developed materials product stewardship programs in the US and Europe, has served on a Federal advisory committee on chemicals policy, and created a program to make chemical health and safety information publicly available. He has a BA from the University of Kansas and a JD from California Western School of Law.


Image of Joanna Toole.Joanna Toole, Fishing Operations and Technology Branch | Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations
Joanna Toole works in the Fishing Operations and Technology Branch of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). A major focus of Joannaʼs work is on abandoned, lost or otherwise discarded fishing gear (ALDFG) and she has recently been involved in the development of FAO guidelines on the marking of fishing gear. Joanna has an NGO background and in previous roles led the formation of the Global Ghost Gear Initiative (GGGI) and has also worked on marine debris issues for the NGO OceanCare. FAO is on the Steering Committee of the Global Partnership for Marine Litter.


Image of Melati Wjisen.Melati Wijsen, Co-Founder | Bye Bye Plastic Bags
Melati is a 17-year old Indonesian/Dutch activist, born and raised on the island of Bali. She has co-founded Bye Bye Plastic Bags and has been leading the movement driven by youth for 5 years now. She is currently in her last year of High School at Green School Bali and is also a member of the Worldʼs Ocean Day Youth Advisory Council. Melati is passionate about the environment, humanity, and youth empowerment.