The Plastic Tide

The Team


Peter Kohler, Founder & Director

Peter is an explorer, technology enthusiast and lover of the oceans and science.

He recently combined these passions by hosting the London chapter of the US State Department's international technology and science hackathon on sustainable fishing, the Fishackathon, with London winning the global competition and enjoying great success.

But since a sailing trip in the South Pacific in 2008 he has been fascinated with the issue of ocean plastic pollution. He has sought ways in which technology and science can help us measure, explore and understand in an effort to help solve the issue of marine plastics and litter pollution.

Peter has a BSc (Hons) in Geographical Information Science and is a Trustee of The Scientific Exploration Society and Fellow at the Royal Geographical Society.


Ellie Mackay, Director & Pilot   

Ellie is an award-winning documentary filmmaker and licensed drone pilot, with a passion for the oceans and a keen desire to highlight the complexities of the marine plastics problem.

She studied Geological Sciences and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Cambridge and has recently completed an MSc in Science Communication at Imperial College, specialising in Documentary for TV and Radio. She also has a background in science news journalism and teaching. Her motivation for storytelling stems from giving a voice to the people and places whose stories are not being heard, raising awareness and education of critical issues in healthcare and conservation, and stimulating social change through engaging mixed media.

Ellie is a Fellow and Ambassador for the Royal Geographical Society.


Ben Hahn, Algorithm Engineer

Ben is a Mechanical Engineer at Imperial College London, who has a keen interest in robotics and autonomous systems. He is keen to understand how robots and other autonomous systems can understand and interact with their environment and how these capabilities can then be harnessed to have a positive impact.

For the Plastic Tide he is working on adopting a revolutionary new set of machine learning algorithms called Deep Convolutional Neural Networks (DCNN) to automatically detect and monitor plastics and marine litter in aerial imagery


Our Scientific Advisory Team

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Dr. Leutenegger is Lecturer in Robotics at Imperial College.  His research is centered around autonomous robot navigation, specifically the need for dedicated sensing capabilities and algorithms for localisation inside a potentially unknown environments.

Through his work on multi-sensor capabilities he helps robots and Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) to build an awareness and interact with the environment they're in.  

Our Algorithm Engineer is tutored by Dr. Leutenegger, who advises on engineering and technical issues to do with The Plastic Tide.



Dr Kayleigh Wyles

Dr. Wyles is a Lecturer in Environmental Psychology at the University of Surrey. Her research focuses on the human dimension of threats facing the marine environment (e.g. microplastics, marine litter, and overfishing), and people’s use and experience of this natural setting.  Her research indicates many benefits of people positively engaging in these issues, including increased awareness and a sense of meaningfulness and fulfilment from participating in activities like beach cleans.

The Plastic Tide offers Dr. Wyles a unique opportunity to explore how far these benefits apply to those who tag plastics images online. Her study will focus on whether these benefits differ greatly between online participation and 'offline' beach cleaners.  Examining these differences could help social sciences further explore what influences and drives these benefits.


DR Erik Van Sebille

Dr. Van Sebille is a multi-award winning oceanographer, climate scientist and lecturer at Imperial College's Grantham Institute.  He is an expert in his field with 65 peer reviewed articles and numerous interviews in a multitude of news media.

His research investigates the timescales and pathways of global ocean circulation. He focuses on how currents and eddies in the ocean transport heat and nutrients, as well as marine organisms and plastics between different regions of the ocean. 

Dr. Van Sebille advises the project on Marine plastic and litter issues and how the algorithm we develop can potentially have a revolutionary impact on the research community.