Heather J. Koldewey is a 2018 National Geographic Fellow and scientific co-lead of the National Geographic Society’s work to better understand the impact and scope of plastic pollution in our waterways through scientific research and exploration. She currently serves as Zoological Society of London’s Senior Technical Advisor.
Koldewey co-founded Project Seahorse in 1996, recognized as the world’s leading authority on seahorses and as an early pioneer of community-based marine conservation. More recently, Koldewey co-developed Net-Works, an award-winning project that addresses issues of marine debris and poverty alleviation in coastal communities in developing countries. She also leads the Bertarelli Programme in Marine Science. Koldewey uses collaborative, optimistic and values-based approaches to communicate and engage people in marine conservation, including One Less, a campaign to build a more ocean-friendly society through working to make London the first capital city to stop using single-use plastic water bottles. As a scientific co-lead of National Geographic Society’s plastic work, Koldewey will help lead a team in developing a scientific plan, starting with an initial expedition to study the type and flow of plastic in a river system. Through the expedition, the team will work to provide science-based, actionable information to help local and national governments, NGOs, businesses and the public more effectively invest in and implement innovative solutions to the plastic waste crisis.
An Honorary Professor at the University of Exeter, Koldewey graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences (Marine and Fish Biology) at the University of Plymouth, and earned her Ph.D. from Swansea University.
Lillygol Sedaghat National Geographic Explorer and multimedia storyteller
Lillygol Sedaghat is a National Geographic Explorer and multimedia storyteller at the intersection of science, systems and people. Previously, she was a Fulbright–National Geographic Digital Storyteller documenting Taiwan’s waste management system, plastics recycling, and circular economy initiatives.
Through her work, Sedaghat hopes to inspire conscious consumerism — the realization that every choice we make affects the environment — and spark a global discussion on trash with #MyWasteMyWay. Using visual art and digital media to promote environmental education, she aims to transform people’s perceptions of trash from something disposable to something valuable. An active spokesperson for National Geographic’s global Planet or Plastic? Campaign, she has spoken at United Nations World Environment Day India, Influence Nation Summit, and the National Geographic Live series, among other events. She has been named “5 Under 25: Leaders in U.S.-China Relations” by China Hands magazine.
Sedaghat received her Bachelor of Arts in political economy from the University of California, Berkeley.
(Note: These biographies were up-to-date as of the date of the lecture. Biographies are not updated over time.)