"As long as I am breathing, I will try to make a difference!"
Christine Figgener (TIME Magazine)
Passionate about Inspiring Others to Make A Difference in this World
I am a marine conservation biologist, science communicator, and ocean advocate, who is studying and protecting sea turtles, fighting ocean plastic pollution, and empowering women in STEM.
My claim to fame and shining public moment is a viral video I filmed and uploaded in 2015 that documents the removal of a plastic straw from a sea turtle's nose by my research team. That video was a catalyst for the global anti-straw movement, leading to several straw bans by businesses such as Starbucks, Disney, and Alaska Airlines. The video is by now considered a pivotal moment in the anti-plastic movement and has provided me with an incredible platform for science communication and the conversation around the use of single-use plastics and other environmental issues affecting marine life.
My research and advocacy efforts have been featured in popular press articles, as well as different documentary productions, such as the BBC and National Geographic. Because of my advocacy work, I was named a Next Generation Leader by TIME Magazine in 2018 and was a finalist of the feature Texan of the Year by the Dallas Morning News, among other recognitions.
However, a viral video is not all I have accomplished :-)!
I have worked with sea turtles and cetaceans in Central America for over 15 years, applying my research findings to the conservation of these charismatic animals. To foster awareness, I am using my study subjects as ocean ambassadors to connect people to our oceans. A particular interest of mine is to highlight the threats our ocean and its inhabitants are facing, and the difference each and every one of us can make by changing daily habits.
I hold a PhD from Texas A&M University's Marine Biology ID Graduate Program, where I studied the trophic and movement ecology of sea turtles for my dissertation. I am also still actively involved in sea turtle research and conservation efforts with my two organisations Namaka Conservation Science, a scientific consultancy, and Costa Rican Alliance for Sea Turtle Conservation & Science (COASTS), a community-led non-profit in Costa Rica. My mission is to strengthen grassroots sea turtle conservation efforts by developing and executing projects and training and empowering local conservationists and scientists, with a special emphasis on local women.
In 2020, I assumed the role of Director of Science & Education for the US-based Footprint Foundation, whose mission is to educate about the detrimental effects of plastic pollution and to inspire enough change to eliminate plastic from our environment.
Figgener C, Bernardo J, Plotkin PT (2022). Delineating and characterising critical habitat for the Eastern Pacific olive ridley turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea): individual differences in migratory routes present challenges for conservation measures. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution. https://doi.org/10.3389/fevo.2022.933424
Figgener C, Bernardo J, Plotkin PT (2022). Marine turtles are only minimally sexually size dimorphic, a pattern that is distinct from most nonmarine aquatic turtles. Ecology and Evolution. 12: e8963. https://doi.org/10.1002/ece3.8963
Figgener C, Bernardo J, Plotkin PT (2019). Beyond trophic morphology: stable isotopes reveal ubiquitous versatility in marine turtle trophic ecology. Biological Reviews. 94: 1947-1973. https://doi.org/10.1111/brv.12543
Figgener C, Bernardo J, Plotkin PT (2019). MarTurtSI, a global database of stable isotope analyses of marine turtles. Scientific Data. 6: 16. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41597-019-0030-9
Figgener C (2018). What I learnt pulling a straw from a sea turtle's nose. Nature. 563: 157. https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-018-07287-z
Figgener C, Beck E, Dunlop D, Castillo-MacCarthy A (2018). Loxocemus bicolor. Diet. Herpetological Review. 49(1): 133. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/323881161_Loxocemus_bicolor_Diet
Robinson NJ, Figgener C, Gatto C, Lazo-Wasem EA, Paladino FV, Santidrian Tomillo P, Zardus JD, Pinou T (2017). Assessing potential limitations when characterising the epibiota of marine megafauna: Effect of gender, sampling location, and inter-annual variation on the epibiont communities of olive ridley sea turtles. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology. 497: 71-77. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jembe.2017.09.012
Figgener C, Chacón D, Jensen M, Feldhaar H (2016). Paternity re-visited in a recovering population of Caribbean leatherback sea turtles (Dermochelys coriacea). Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology. 475: 114-123. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jembe.2015.11.014
Robinson NJ & Figgener C (2015). Plastic straw found inside the nostril of an olive ridley turtle. Marine Turtle Newsletter. 147: 5-6. http://www.seaturtle.org/mtn/archives/mtn147/mtn1473.shtml
Oviedo L, Herra-Miranda D, Pacheco-Polanco JD, Figgener C, Márquez-Artavia A, Quirós-Pereira W, Iñiguez M (2015). Diversidad de cetáceos en el paisaje marino costero de Golfo Dulce, Península de Osa, Costa Rica. Revista de Biología Tropical. 63 (Suppl.1): 395-406. https://doi.org/10.15517/RBT.V63I1.23118
Pacheco-Polanco JD, Herra-Miranda D, Oviedo L, Quirós-Pereira W, Figgener C (2015). Agregaciones de Alimentación del Tiburón Ballena Rhincodon typus, SMITH 1828 (Orectolobiformes: Rhincodontidae) en la cuenca interna de Golfo Dulce, Península de Osa, Costa Rica. Revista de Biología Tropical. 63 (Suppl.1): 299-306. http://doi.org/10.15517/RBT.V63I1.23109
Scientific Reports & Conference Presentations
Figgener C, Bernardo J, Plotkin PT (2019). Spatial modelling used to identify and characterize oceanic areas of conservation importance for the Eastern Pacific olive ridley turtle, Lepidochelys olivacea. Oral Presentation. 39th International Symposium on Sea Turtle Biology and Conservation, Charleston, USA
Figgener C, Bernardo J, Reich K, Plotkin PT (2018). Divergent nesting behaviour linked to differences in foraging behaviour of female olive ridley sea turtles nesting on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica elucidated with stable isotope analysis. Oral Presentation. 38th International Symposium on Sea Turtle Biology and Conservation, Kobe, Japan
Figgener C, Bernardo J, Reich K, Plotkin PT (2018). Successful use of the IRIDIUM satellite system to study the fine-scale movements of internesting marine turtles. Poster Presentation. 38th International Symposium on Sea Turtle Biology and Conservation, Kobe, Japan
Figgener C, Bernardo J, Reich K, Plotkin PT (2017). Trophic ecology of the olive ridley sea turtle in the Eastern Pacific Ocean. Poster Presentation. 37th International Symposium on Sea Turtle Biology and Conservation, Las Vegas, USA
Figgener C, Bernardo J, Plotkin PT (2016). Sexual dimorphism & sexual selection in Lepidochelys olivacea. Oral Presentation. 36th International Symposium on Sea Turtle Biology and Conservation, Lima, Peru
Figgener C, Bernardo J, Plotkin PT (2016). Sexual dimorphism in Lepidochelys olivacea. Poster Presentation. IDP MARB Retreat, Corpus Christi, USA
Figgener C, Castillo-MacCarthy A, Mora-Sandoval J, Argüello-Gomez Y, Quiros-Peirera W (2014). Raising the hatching success of leatherback nests at the olive ridley mass-nesting beach Ostional (Guanacaste, Costa Rica). Oral Presentation. 34th International Symposium on Sea Turtle Biology and Conservation, New Orleans, USA
Márquez-Artavia A, Oviedo L, Herra-Miranda D, Pacheco-Polanco JD, Quirós-Pereira W, Silva-Hernandez MG, Figgener C (2012). The utilization distribution of humpback whales in Golfo Dulce, Costa Rica. International Whaling Commission (IWC). Report of the Scientific Committee. SC/64/015
Oviedo L, Herra-Miranda D, Pacheco-Polanco JD, Márquez-Artavia A, Quirós-Pereira W, Silva-Hernandez MG, Figgener C (2012). The critical foraging habitats of coastal bottlenose and pantropical spotted dolphins in Golfo Dulce, Costa Rica. International Whaling Commission (IWC). Report of the Scientific Committee. SC/64/SM10
Figgener C, Quiros-Pereira W (2011, 2012, 2013). Leatherback and Pacific Green Sea Turtle Research and Conservation Project Ostional – Nesting-Season 2010/11 (2011/12, 2012/13). Technical Report for MINAE/SINAC
Figgener C, MacCarthy A, Chacón D, and Feldhaar H (2010). Re-assessment of mating strategies of Caribbean leatherback turtles. Poster Presentation. 30th International Symposium on Sea Turtle Biology and Conservation, San Diego, USA
Figgener C (2010). Paternity study and population genetics on the Caribbean Leatherback sea turtle population (Dermochelys coriacea) in Costa Rica. Master’s Thesis, Julius-Maximilians-University Wuerzburg Germany. ProQuest 175251699.
Figgener C (2009). Monitoring of the nesting activities of the Hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) and the Green turtle (Chelonia mydas) at Playa Gandoca, Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge, Costa Rica from August until October 2009. Technical Report for MINAE/SINAC
Figgener C (2005). Size does matter – clients’ choice of cleaning stations of the cleaner wrasse Labroides dimidiatus in the Red Sea. Senior Project. Eberhard-Karls-University Tuebingen, Germany