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Behind the Research: Meet Nazife Oruc Baci

By July 10, 2023July 13th, 2023No Comments

Prevented Ocean Plastic is proud to support academic research. Earlier this year, Prevented Ocean Plastic™ announced direct funding for a new research project to broaden understanding of how litter on land ends up in our oceans. Now we are proud to introduce one of the people that will be carrying out the research on the ground, Nazife (Naz) Oruc Baci.

  • Hi Naz! Please could you tell me about your academic background, and your research interests?

Hi! My bachelor’s and first master’s degrees are from the University of Pamukkale in Turkey. My bachelor’s thesis was the design of hydroelectric power plants. My first master’s thesis was a drought analysis of the southeastern Anatolia Region in Turkey. We picked this topic and study area because the region has several important dams, such as Ataturk and Keban Dams, and is supported by the Southeastern Anatolia Project. Then, while working as a PhD student and research assistant at Harran University, I gained my second master’s degree from the University of Alabama with the scholarship I was entitled to from the Turkish Ministry of National Education. This resulted in a peer-reviewed publication called ‘Improving flood inundation modeling skill: interconnection between model parameters and boundary conditions‘.

Currently, I am a graduate research assistant and a PhD student at the School of Environmental, Civil, Agriculture, and Mechanical Engineering at the University of Georgia. My research interests include drought, flood modeling, flood risk maps, and fluid transport techniques.”

  • What or who inspired you to pursue a Phd?

“I gained my first academic inspiration at the University of Genova, where I did Erasmus. Their large hydraulic laboratories compelled me to study hydraulics/hydrology in particular. All the mentors I had guided me in the right way and ultimately made me decide that the academy was the right place for me.”

  • Could you tell me more about the project you’re undertaking- What previous research does it pivot from? Which gaps will it seek to close? 

The project is called ‘Inland Litter Hydrodynamics: Characterizing the Litter Transport during Wet Weather Events in Communities’. The main purpose of this project is to close the gap found in the literature on the transport of plastic reaching water resources from the land. Previous studies on this subject are scarcely any. The studies are mostly ocean and river oriented, and we are focusing on one of the biggest sources, which is inland communities.

I’m very excited about realizing the particle tracking method we’re going to do in the field, and modelling it hydraulically. This model is critical to understanding the transport of plastic (and the origination of ocean- or water-bound plastic) in communities from street level to rivers and how it ends up in the ocean.”

  • At this early stage, what do you hope to learn from the project?

“I believe that I have come a long way in terms of the character of plastic in the last few months. I aim to learn how to model this information, especially with the help of a particle-tracking method. After obtaining the particle tracking model in the field and with the help of the information obtained from it, I would like to learn how to create a model with the help of free and easily accessible and useful programs such as Hecras or Delftd3D, which are already available.  After creating this model, I want to see how plastic is transported on land and what is at the forefront for this.”

  • How do you characterise the scale of the problem that you’ll be researching?

“Based on the articles I have read recently, I can say that plastic consumption has increased significantly, especially with COVID-19, and it continues to increase. And a large part of plastic waste reaches water sources by land. This increases the importance of the problem.”

“Dr. Santiago is an excellent advisor and reminds me at every opportunity that we are doing an important job, even when I have lost my motivation. It is invaluable for me to take part in important work with him. Dr. Jambeck, on the other hand, has an important reputation, especially in plastics, and working with her is a privilege. The smiling faces of both of my advisors are a great motivation for me. Working with them is the guarantee that I will come to a different place in the work.”

  • What does the support of Prevented Ocean Plastic™ to complete your PhD mean to you?

“When I came to the end of my master’s degree, I started sending e-mails to the professors working in my field to do a PhD, Dr.Santiago reached out to me and asked for an interview after getting my resume. I was very excited when Dr.Santiago talked about the project to be done in the interview. The financial support of Prevented Ocean Plastic™ is crucial to completing my PhD.

  • Thanks Naz! Finally, do you think enough businesses support academic research? What more could be done?

“Certainly, especially in developing countries, the industry does not support academic studies, and academic findings are not sufficiently utilized. Universities and industries should collaborate more, and the findings should be applied to real life.  The Compound Inundation Team for Resilient Applications (CITRA) research group, of which I am a member, bridges the gap between academic research and practical application. An essential component of any project is the dissemination of the results, CITRA engages the community and stakeholders by simplifying complex concepts into simple analogies.”

Prevented Ocean Plastic™ is built on science and data-based truths and we will continue to support academic research and directly fund research that informs and supports our mission. In the words of Prevented Ocean Plastic™ Director, Raffi Schieir, “The scale of the ocean plastic pollution problem is almost too big to comprehend. No one can solve this problem alone and it’s vital that businesses support academics and NGOs in the important work that they do. It’s vital that what we do is underpinned by research.” 

Prevented Ocean Plastic™ is high quality, certified recycled plastic that has been collected from coastal areas at risk of ocean plastic pollution. Used by supermarkets and brands around the world, it meets regulatory health and safety standards, is traceable back to source and can be identified on-pack through its distinctive triangular logo. Prevented Ocean Plastic™ is an official nominee for the 2023 Earthshot Prize, and counts Lidl, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and Booths Supermarket as key partners, along with major manufacturing partners such as Groupe Guillin, Spectra Packaging, and Berry Global for offerings across multiple product categories, including fish, poultry, soft fruits, pet food, personal care, and home cleaning.