Mercyhurst slates Earth Week events on both campuses

Monday, April 08, 2019

earth dayAn authority on plastic pollution of the world’s waters will deliver the 18th Annual Sister Maura Smith Earth Day Lecture at Mercyhurst University.

Marcus Eriksen, Ph.D., (at right) will speak on “Saving Our Synthetic Seas” on Tuesday, April 16, at 7 p.m. in the university’s Walker Recital Hall. The lecture is presented by the Charlene M. Tanner Speaker Series and co-sponsored by the Mercyhurst University Sustainability Office and the Evelyn Lincoln Institute for Ethics and Society. It is free and open to the public.

Mercyhurst Sustainability Officer Sarah Bennett, who also chairs the biology department, said Mercyhurst students in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology labs will join Eriksen earlier Tuesday to collect data on pollution at Presque Isle State Park. He will incorporate these data, as well as data gathered by the Environmental Problem Solving lab, into his presentation Tuesday night.

Eriksen is the research director and co-founder of the 5 Gyres Institute. He studies the global distribution and ecological impacts of plastic marine pollution, which has included expeditions sailing through all five subtropical gyres, the Bay of Bengal, the Southern Ocean, and inland lakes and rivers. He published the first global estimate of all plastic of all sizes floating in the world’s oceans – totaling 270,000 metric tons from 5.25 trillion particles.

In 2013 he and colleagues published the discovery of microbeads in the Great Lakes, which became the cornerstone for a U.S.-based campaign to eliminate plastic microbeads from cosmetics, resulting in the Microbead-Free Waters Act, which became U.S. federal law in 2015.

Eriksen received his Ph.D. in Science Education from the University of Southern California in 2003, months before embarking on a 2,000-mile, five-month journey down the Mississippi River on a homemade raft of plastic bottles to bring attention to this issue.

In 2008, he rafted across the Pacific Ocean from California to Hawaii on JUNK, floating on 15,000 plastic bottles with a Cessna airplane fuselage as a cabin ( The journey, 2,600 miles in 88 days, brought attention to the work of the 5 Gyres Institute, the organization he co-founded with his wife Anna Cummins.

The Mercyhurst community is joining the annual Earth Day observance in a variety of ways during April:

A “Go Green” event was held for students on April 5, including a talk on Daily Sustainability and an “upcycling” activity to make tote bags out of old T-shirts.

Mercyhurst’s Fashion Council will host activities including an April 23 clothing swap and an April 24 screening of the film The True Cost, about the human and environmental costs associated with the production of clothing.

Bennett and Dr. Anne Zaphiris will take part in presentations on glass recycling organized by the Erie Glass Recycling Working Group on April 24 at 5:30 p.m. in Hirt Auditorium at the Blasco Library.

The Mercyhurst North East Criminology-Criminal Justice Department will sponsor an Earth Day Cleanup on Thursday, April 25, from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., with pizza and pop served at 12:30. The staging area is in the lobby of the Tom and Michele Ridge Building, just off Rt. 89.

MNE students will again be joined by adult clients from the Barber National Institute. The cleanup, part of the “Keep Pennsylvania Clean Initiative,” will cover the stretch of Rt. 89 next to campus (which the Criminology-Criminal Justice Club sponsors under the Adopt-A-Highway project) as well as the MNE campus and part of downtown North East.

Erie’s 2030 District will meet on campus April 25 and tour Mercyhurst’s sustainability initiatives.

​For more information about the lecture and other sustainability activities at Mercyhurst, contact Sarah Bennett at

For information about the cleanup at Mercyhurst North East, contact Dr. Peter Yakzick at