PhD Researcher
Plastic Pollution
Contact details

Institute of Zoology
Zoological Society of London

Contact links

Jessica's PhD project is looking to understand the risks and impacts of plastic pollution on filter-feeding elasmobranchs.

The project has a particular focus on Reef manta rays (Mobula alfredi). Jess is also investigating the origins of plastic pollution in the Indian Ocean.

Jess Savage

 Jess' project is firstly using global data of filter-feeding megafauna movement patterns, overlaid with plastic pollution maps, to assess geographical exposure to ghost fishing gear and microplastics, and the risk of entanglement and plastic ingestion. The project is then focusing in on the central Indian Ocean, including the Chagos Archipelago. Jess is looking to understand the origins of plastic pollution there, using plastic bottles, and their labels and lids to infer their brands, origins, and how long they have been at sea. She is also looking for the presence of microplastics in manta ray feeding grounds around the Archipelago, to validate the risks of ingestion in this location. Finally, using a systematic review and ecotoxicology experts’ opinions, the project will look to understand if plastic ingestion leads to more plastic additives in tissues, and assess the best ways of carrying out this type of study.

Plastic pollution

This PhD aims to link the plastic exposure of filter-feeding megafauna to risk and subsequent impact, with the hope to inform better plastic pollution management solutions and policies. Additionally, the information on plastic origins and prevalent brands will feed into the Global Plastic Treaty negotiations, currently ongoing until the end of 2024. 

Professional history

2020-Present: NERC DTP PhD Candidate - The impact of plastic pollution in the Indian Ocean on filter-feeding megafauna, particularly reef manta rays (Mobula alfredi) (UCL, Royal Holloway University of London, Institute of Zoology and Zoological Society of London)
2016-2020: Graduate Programme in Information Technology then Cybersecurity Solution Specialist at Computacenter
2013-2015: Erasmus Mundus TROPIMUNDO MSc in Tropical Biodiversity and Ecosystems, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, University Degli Studie di Firenze and the University of Queensland. Thesis focusing on the impacts of a marine heat wave on the plankton communities off the coast of Western Australia, supervised by Anthony J Richardson at University of Queensland and CSIRO
2010-2013: BSc (Hons) in Mathematics and Physics with German, Durham University


Prof. David Morritt, Royal Holloway University of London
Dr Tom Letessier, Institute of Zoology
Dr Marcus Rowcliffe, Institute of Zoology
Prof. Heather Koldewey, Zoological Society of London


Richardson A.J, Savage J, Coman F, Davies C, Eriksen R, McEnnulty F, Slotwinski A, Tonks M, Uribe-Palomino J. (2020). The impact on zooplankton of the 2011 heatwave off Western Australia. In Richardson A.J, Eriksen R, Moltmann T, Hodgson-Johnston I, Wallis J.R. (Eds). State and Trends of Australia’s Ocean Report. doi: 10.26198/5e16adc449e87