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Jenna Jambeck, associate professor of Environmental Engineering at the University of Georgia, works with plastic marine waste.

Jenna Jambeck, a University of Georgia College of Engineering professor, will help lead an all-women expedition to the Ganges River, in partnership with National Geographic. She will be joined by two other College of Engineering researchers: Amy Brooks and Kathryn Youngblood, as well as other women from around the world.

The “Sea to the Source: Ganges” expedition is a part of National Geographic’s initiative to understand and document plastic waste and how it makes its way into the world’s water supply. The expedition is expected to answer critical questions and prompt new solutions to the pollution problem.

Single-use plastics, such as water bottles, plastic bags, styrofoam, and straws, are some of the largest contributors to aquatic pollution. Every year, almost 9 million tons of plastic ends up in the world’s oceans. Rivers are commonly the transporters of all this pollution.

The expedition will address the issue threefold and examine land, water, and people. On land, the team will focus on waste put out by communities, and how it is disposed of and managed. In the water, the team will study pollution in every aspect of the local environment, from the sediment to the wildlife. In regards to people, the team will be studying socioeconomic issues to gauge awareness and tackle the pollution problem in households.

The 15 woman expedition, the largest of its kind sponsored by National Geographic, will start in the Bay of Bengal and end in the Ganga of the Himalayas, and will do so again after the monsoon season.

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