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Fellows Directory

Richard Thompson

Richard Thompson

Professor Richard Thompson OBE FRS


Elected: 2020






Richard Thompson is a Marine Biologist and one of the world’s foremost experts on plastic pollution. In 2004, he published the first paper describing the long-term accumulation of microscopic fragments of plastic in the environment, naming them ‘microplastics’. He and his his team have been at the forefront of microplastics research and have shown their global distribution, the potential for transfer from the gut to the circulatory system, and their role in the transport of chemical contaminants. This pioneering early work was pivotal in recognition of microplastic contamination in policy, such as Marine Strategy Framework Directive.

Richard has an extensive track record of collaboration across the disciplines, with an emphasis on identifying ways to use plastics more sustainably. His recent work has guided policy on the release of microplastics from cosmetic products and textiles.

His wider research focuses on the ecology of shallow water habits, including artificial structures. He received the Marsh Award for Marine and Freshwater Conservation in 2017 and an OBE for services to marine science in 2018. His team won the NERC Impact Award (2018) and based on their work the University of Plymouth received the Queens Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education in 2020.

Professional positions

, Marine Institute, University of Plymouth

Interest and expertise

Subject groups

  • Organismal biology, evolution and ecology
    • Ecology (incl behavioural ecology), Environmental biology
  • Other
    • History of science, Publications, Science policy


Marine Pollution, Plastic waste, microplastic

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