Nick Mallos is a conservation biologist and ocean debris specialist at Ocean Conservancy, an environmental advocacy group based in Washington, D.C. At Ocean Conservancy, Mallos explores the nexus of citizen science and marine conservation, routinely working with volunteer beach cleaners on massive grassroots efforts to stave off the ever-mounting problem of everyday ocean debris.

Working with communities on environmental issues has been a lodestar in Mallos’s career. After graduating from Dickinson College in 2007, he taught marine science at Sound to Sea, an experiential school in Salter Path, N.C. The following year at the Nicholas School of the Environment, he interned at Lisa Campbell’s lab, working on a National Science Foundation-funded study of 700 volunteers along the North Carolina coast who monitor and collect data on endangered sea turtles—their crawl tracks, nests, hatchings and so forth. His experience led to an interest in volunteerism, which was further sparked through Walking Fish, a community-focused program to source locally harvested seafood to a member-based community in Durham, which Mallos helped get off the ground in 2009 with fellow Nicholas School students Joshua Stoll, Kim Gordon, Alexis (Ramirez) Baldera (now working with Mallos at Ocean Conservancy), and Jennifer Bruce. Mallos received his master of environmental management degree from the Nicholas School in 2010.

One of Nick’s greatest undertakings at Ocean Conservency has been ocean debris remediation in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami that devastated the shores of northern Japan in 2011. The Japanese government estimates that the tragedy sent some five million tons of debris into the ocean, 70 percent of which is believed to have sunk quickly. Of the debris still afloat, it’s estimated that up to 75,000 tons could reach North America over the next few years. Mallos surveyed some of the regions hardest hit by the tsunami and teamed up with 11 members of the Japan Environmental Action Network, a long-time Ocean Conservancy partner, and a local group called Cleanup Gamo, to conduct a beach cleanup. On the other side of the Pacific, Mallos was involved with projects and policies to handle the greater volume of ocean debris that washed ashore on West Coast beaches.

For more about Nick watch this video produced by Erica Rowell.