Christine Figgener, Ph.D.

Footprint Foundation Director of Science and Education

Christine Figgener is a marine conservation biologist and ocean advocate who is passionate about conserving marine turtles, fighting plastic pollution, and empowering women in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). These passions are united by her vision to create positive change in the world by eliminating unnecessary plastic. Christine’s role as the Footprint Foundation director of science and education is to increase awareness and knowledge about how each one of us can help eliminate plastic waste from the environment and food chain by making easy, everyday changes. Collective consumer choices have incredible power to create change, and that change starts with our individual choices.

Each and every one of us can make a difference by changing daily habits.

Christine works with key partners, including non-governmental organizations, educational institutions and sustainable brands to spread awareness about the power of consumer choice at events and conferences. She is also bringing this awareness inside classrooms to instill the knowledge of personal choice on the next generation of consumers, scientists and changemakers.

For over 15 years, Christine has worked across the globe, applying her research to the conservation of marine turtles, whales, dolphins, and porpoises. She was thrust into the international spotlight in 2015 when she vividly captured the threat that plastic poses to animals on video when her research team in Costa Rica removed a plastic straw from a marine turtle’s nose. This video quickly went viral and was one of the leading catalysts for the global anti-straw movement. As a result, global businesses, including Starbucks, Disney, and Alaska Airlines, soon removed plastic straws from their product offerings. While impactful, straws are just the beginning of how eliminating plastics can positively impact the oceanic and terrestrial environments.

Christine Figgener On Plastic Straws, Her Viral Video & More

Next Generation Leader
by TIME Magazine

In 2018, Christine was named a Next Generation Leader by TIME Magazine for her outreach work. Her research and advocacy efforts have also been featured in BBC and National Geographic documentaries. She is actively involved in sea turtle conservation efforts through her non-profit organization, Costa Rican Alliance for Sea Turtle Conservation & Science, whose mission is to strengthen grassroots sea turtle conservation efforts by developing projects and training and empowering local conservationists and scientists. Christine holds a Ph.D. from Texas A&M University’s Marine Biology ID Graduate Program.

Christine Figgener Biography

Early Years (1983-1990)

When Christine was a small child she was terrified to go into the ocean, afraid of what was below the surface. After her father gave her a pair of diving goggles, she became mesmerized by the world below the water and her love of the ocean was born.

Teen (1997-2000)

In high school in Germany, Christine interned in a large aquarium where the experience cemented her passion to work as a marine biologist.

College (2003-2007)

In College, Christine began working as research assistant in a sea turtle project in Costa Rica. Working with these incredible living “dinosaurs” created the inexplicable desire to understand and protect sea turtles.

Moving to Costa Rica (2009-2013)

After completing her master’s thesis, she moved to Costa Rica to work full-time in sea turtle conservation, conducting daily beach cleanings to take plastic waste off the beach. In addition to plastic beach pollution, Christine found numerous animals impacted by plastic pollution: entangled in plastic bags, car tires, fishing lines, stuck in plastic gallons, etc. Examining deceased animals, she would find their stomachs full of plastic. Christine began educating the local Costa Rican communities about recycling and proper waste management and helped devise ways of reducing the plastic use– but felt helpless in the inability to solve the issue of plastic pollution or control the source of the waste.

Ph.D. in Marine Biology (2014-2019)

In 2014, Christine started writing her Ph.D. dissertation on the feeding ecology of Olive Ridley Turtles in Costa Rica within the Marine Biology Interdisciplinary Graduate Program at Texas A&M University. In August 2015, Christine and her research team found a male Olive Ridley Turtle with a plastic straw lodged in its nose. She filmed the removal of the plastic straw and uploaded it onto social media, where it went viral.

Joining Footprint (2020)

In 2020, she joined forces with the Footprint Foundation to continue to extend her platform to advocate for change.