Freija Mendrik is a marine scientist and Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the International Marine Litter Research Unit, University of Plymouth, UK. Her research explores the transport and ecological risk of microplastics in aquatic environments. Mendrik was part of the National Geographic River of Plastic project, which applied a coupled physical and social approach to understand plastic waste transport throughout the Mekong River in Cambodia and Vietnam to the ocean. Her work also includes novel experiments with 3D-printed corals to understand how complex aquatic ecosystems such as reefs may act as a sink for microplastic pollution.
As a National Geographic Explorer, Mendrik investigated how coral reefs of Con Dao, a group of remote islands off the southern coast of Vietnam, are being impacted by microplastic pollution. Mendrik's research will allow insight into the levels of exposure and risk coral reefs in Southeast Asia, including the highly biodiverse Coral Triangle, face from increasing plastic pollution. She is also a passionate ocean advocate and science communicator who explores different ways to engage the public with environmental issues through photography, social media, and infographics.