Kirk Havens

Research Associate Professor
Director, Coastal Watersheds Program
Assistant Director, Center for Coastal Resources Management

Non-degradable microscopic plastic beads are found in a wide variety of common, everyday health and beauty products —from lip glosses and sunscreens to exfoliates and toothpastes. They are also found in our oceans and lakes and in marine zooplankton, imperiling the tiny animals that form the base of the food chain. Building on the findings of others, Kirk Havens and his colleagues, Donna Bilkovic, David Stanhope and Kory Angstadt, conducted their innovative research on naturally occurring polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs). PHAs possess the properties of plastics, yet quickly break down when submerged in water. This research has enabled others to build on their findings, resulting in effective, environmentally friendly consumer products, such as biodegradable microbeads, biodegradable escape panels for crab and lobster pots, and biodegradable shotgun wads, that are good for people and marine life alike.

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“In today’s world, the bread and butter of science-focused institutions can no longer be solely research and education, but rather they must embrace creativity and innovation. The unique mission of VIMS, nurtured by the university, enables an environment where research, education, creativity and innovation blend into practical, real-world applications.”