Chelsea Rochman, Ph.D

Chelsea is an assistant professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and runs the Rochman Lab at the University of Toronto.

April 9, 2018

  • In 2 sentences, explain your work with the HWHF?

We aim to develop novel methods to detect small microplastics in wildlife tissues and/or associated chemical ingredients (i.e., monomers, additives). We are trying to understand the fate of microplastic contamination in marine and freshwater animals.

  • Describe what your organization does best.

Our greatest strength is producing scientific evidence that can inform positive change.

  • What’s the best part of your day?

Learning new things through research, collaboration and innovation and mentoring students.

  • When did you know you wanted to be a(n) _____________?

I realized I wanted to dedicate my career to researching plastic pollution when I witnessed the contamination of plastic debris firsthand on remote islands off Australia in 2006.

  • What do you read for fun?

Generally non-fiction books about the environment, history or inspirational people.

  • Are you a Windows or Apple person?


  • What’s one thing you can’t work without?

Collaboration! I love working with others and gaining new perspective.

  • What’s the most interesting place you have ever been (for work)?

Well – I’d like to say the N. Pacific Garbage Patch or the Canadian Arctic, but honestly, while those were so interesting and amazing experiences, I am fascinated by wastewater treatment plants.

  • What’s the most interesting thing you have ever done?

Probably sailed across an ocean. But, for me, I am fascinated by how decision-making works and how politics work every time I have an opportunity to interact in a global conference (e.g., Our Ocean) or testify for legislation (e.g., Microbeads bills).

  • What’s the farthest you’ve ever traveled for your work?

By sailboat from Brazil to S. Africa.

  • What accomplishment are you most proud of?

Seeing my research used by policy makers in the US and Canada. Being asked to advise governments on policy based on the state of the scientific evidence.

  • What’s your favorite activity outside of work?

Running , yoga, biking, swimming, hiking, canoeing – anything physical and outside!

  • If you were on an island and could only bring three things – what would they be?

A kindle full of books I want to read. My partner. A writing utensil and paper.

  • Who were the most important people to help you create success in your life and what did they do for/with you?

My academic mentors were instrumental – Dr. Baghdasarian from Santa Monica College inspired me to be a marine ecologist. My advisors in graduate school, Eunha Hoh and Swee Teh gave me independence, their confidence and their unconditional support. My postdoctoral fellowship program, and in particular the leads of the program Mike Dombeck and Shonda Foster, taught me to think outside the box in regards to my career and that there are several ways to have impact. My partner, Luke Mahler, also challenges me every day to be bolder, more courageous and confident in my actions and decisions.

  • If you could do something as a career other than what you are doing now (no limits) what would it be?

I think I would become a politician in a government position where I could help make decisions that benefit our planet.

  • If you could go back and talk to your 20 year old self, what would you tell them?

Be patient.

  • How do you stay optimistic in today’s world?

I never lose hope! There are good people out there fighting toward common goals.