Texas Sea Grant to screen “STRAWS” documentary featuring Aggie doctoral candidate April 20

April 09, 2018

By Cindie Powell

COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Christine Figgener, a Texas A&M University doctoral candidate whose viral video about a sea turtle found with a straw up its nose has reached more than 20 million viewers, is among the panelists at a free screening of “STRAWS,” an award-winning documentary about plastic pollution in the marine environment, at 4 p.m. April 20 in Rudder Theatre.

Figgener is featured in the film, which examines the impacts of straws and other single-use plastic items in our waterways and oceans. A marine conservation biologist who works with sea turtles, she was leading a research team off the coast of Costa Rica in the summer of 2015 when she shot the iconic and graphic video of researchers pulling a 4-inch plastic drinking straw out of a sea turtle’s nose. Her video is referred to frequently in “STRAWS” as a pivotal moment in awakening the public to the harm caused by discarded plastic in the world’s oceans.

“Plastic straws and all other single-use plastics are a major issue for wildlife, but they’re also detrimental for us and our health — plastics have unfortunately become part of our diet by now, for instance when we eat fish,” Figgener said. “I am really proud that this film is coming to the Texas A&M campus and about the role my video has played in the anti-straw movement. I’m also glad for the opportunity to show my fellow Aggies more about my work and how they can make a difference every day.”

Four other panelists on the program are leaders of a variety of efforts from the local to international level to reduce plastic waste in waterways and oceans:

  • Megan Eddings, CEO and Founder of Accel Lifestyle, a company that manufactures eco-friendly and socially responsible fitness apparel made from anti-microbial fabric she invented that stays fresh and will not add micro-plastic to the environment when it is laundered.
  • Zoe King, Cadette Girl Scout and Co-Founder of Sea Turtles vs. Straws, a campaign aimed at reducing single-use straws in restaurants in Aggieland.
  • Martha Parker, Manager of Conservation Impact at the Houston Zoo, a non-profit organization that is committed to saving wildlife by reducing threats such as plastic pollution. The Zoo has reduced its plastic footprint by eliminating plastic bags, plastic water bottles and single-use plastic straws to save animals and their habitats in the wild and to educate and inspire the public to take similar action.
  • Ryan Trahan, distance runner, YouTube star, and CEO and Founder of Neptune Bottles, a reusable water bottle company with a mission to make the world a better place by reducing the amount of plastic in our environment.

The panel discussion, which will follow the screening of the 33-minute film, will be moderated by Dr. Debbie Thomas, Interim Dean of the College of Geosciences and Professor of Oceanography.

With colorful animation sequences and segments narrated by Oscar winner Tim Robbins, “STRAWS” is an entertaining look at a serious subject. It illustrates how individuals, groups, business owners and leaders around the globe are reducing plastic straw use and empowers its viewers to be part of the solution.

“STRAWS” won the Outstanding Achievement Award in Environmental Film at Cayman International Film Festival and was called “An inspiring story of how it's possible to make a sea of change, one straw at a time,” by the Philadelphia Environmental Film Festival. A trailer is available at http://www.videoproject.com/straws.html.

The Texas Sea Grant College Program at Texas A&M University, which supported Figgener’s research project in Costa Rica, is sponsoring and hosting the free screening. Several door prizes will be awarded at the conclusion of the program.

For more information, contact Dr. Pamela T. Plotkin, Texas Sea Grant Director, at plotkin@tamu.edu.

A video story about the incident is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?annotation_id=annotation_2942393383&feature=iv&src_vid=4wH878t78bw&v=nLN52majCJw.

A shortened version of Figgener’s video is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4MPHbpmP6_I&t=1s.

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Texas Sea Grant is a unique partnership that unites the resources of the federal government, the State of Texas and universities across the state to create knowledge, tools, products and services that benefit the economy, the environment and the citizens of Texas. It is administered through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and is one of 33 university-based Sea Grant Programs around the country. Texas Sea Grant is a non-academic research center in the College of Geosciences at Texas A&M University. The program’s mission is to improve the understanding, wise use and stewardship of Texas coastal and marine resources.