Jessica Savage MSc

Royal Holloway University of London; Institute of Zoology


My PhD project is funded by NERC, and in partnership with Royal Holloway University of London, the Institute of Zoology, and ZSL. I am investigating the impacts of plastic pollution in the Central Indian Ocean on filter-feeding megafauna, particularly reef manta rays.

My 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 focussing in on the central Indian Ocean, including the Chagos Archipelago. I’m 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. I’m 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, I 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.

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.

The Chagos Archipelago is a special place for marine biodiversity, and to study anthropogenic impact on ecosystems. Using the charismatic reef manta rays as a flagship species for conservation can help generate interest and inspire action to start making changes in the way we use and dispose of plastic.

Jessica Savage


2020 Present
NERC CTP PhD Candidate - The impact of plastic pollution in the Indian Ocean on filter-feeding megafauna, particularly reef manta rays (Mobula alfredi)
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 focussing 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 Maths and Physics with German, Durham University

Other Interests

Also working with the Thames Litter Forum and the #OneLess project on assessing the pathways and accumulation patterns of plastic pollution in the Thames.