"If not me, then who?"
Plastic Ocean Project Founder
Executive Director, Director of Science, Research & Academic Partnerships, Artist
Areas of Expertise
As the Director of Science, Research and Academic Partnerships for Plastic Ocean Project, Inc. as well as the Executive Director, Bonnie Monteleone is a researcher who has collected plastic marine samples globally including four of the five main ocean gyres, the Caribbean, and has extended this work to Pyramid Lake, outside of Reno, Nevada. Monteleone completed her first field study exploration in the North Atlantic Gyre in July 2009 in collaboration with Maureen Conte, PhD. Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and Bermuda Institute of Ocean Science (BIOS). In the fall of 2009, Monteleone accompanied Algalita Marine Research Foundation’s 10-year resampling of the North Pacific Gyre, quantifying the rate of plastic marine debris growth to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, sampling a transect of 3,460 nautical miles (nm).
In 2010, she continued her North Atlantic study resampling the same region in the North Atlantic. In fall of 2010, she joined 5 Gyres Institute in a first ever South Atlantic transect sampling for pelagic marine debris traveling 4,270 nm from Brazil to South Africa. In 2012, Monteleone collected samples from the South Pacific as part of the film project, A Plastic Ocean. To date, she has five years of data sets from the North Atlantic. A total of 217 surface samples were collected from all four oceans. Monteleone collaborates with Charles Moore, founder of the Algalita Marine Research Foundation (AMRF), Dr. Marcus Eriksen and Anna Cummings, co-founders of 5 Gyres Institute, Dr. William J. Cooper, University of California Irvine (UCI), and Dr. Maureen Conte, BIOS. In 2012, Bonnie Monteleone and Paul Lorenzo co-founded the 501c3 Plastic Ocean Project, Inc.
Monteleone also works in the Environmental Studies Department at UNC Wilmington as an Adjunct Instructor teaching a Plastic Marine Debris Field Studies course and manages a lab working with student Directed Independent Studies (DIS) research. Research projects vary from fieldwork collecting beach samples to lab analysis looking at plastic leachates, persistent organic pollutants (POPs) uptakes, and plastic ingestion by marine organisms. She collaborates with Drs. Pamela Seaton, Brooks Avery, Susanne Brander, and Alison Taylor at UNCW.
Bonnie is also an accomplished artist, turning some of the plastic she collects on her voyages into modern artistic masterpieces. This work story boards her research and has become a traveling art exhibit - What goes around comes around.
She received the Conservation Communicator of the Year 2017, Governor’s Award, Cape Fear YWCA Woman of the Year - Environmental Award 2018, and nominated for the Cape Fear Woman of Achievement award 2018. She received the 2019 YWCA Women of Achievement for her environmental work, and a NC Coastal Federation Pelican Award in 2019. Other accomplishments include aiding in the development of the +Nature Economic Paradigm Shift, the Ocean Advocacy Workshop, and producer of the upcoming documentary, "If the Ocean Could Talk, A Voice For the North Atlantic." She is a member of the Sierra Club Marine Team and on the NC Wildlife Federation's Board of Directors