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919. Emily Penn

Emily Penn, from Penarth in South Wales, is an award-winning oceans advocate who explores remote parts of the planet to collect data and develop solutions to major conservation challenges.

Emily Penn

This is all done while encouraging more women and girls to get involved in scientific research and other STEM professions. She is the co-founder of ‘eXXpedition’, an all-female crew of volunteers who sail around the world undertaking scientific research on our seas. During these voyages, which have taken the group from the Atlantic to the Arctic, Emily and her team analyse ocean samples for pollutants and feed this information into wider investigations about the impact of toxic substances on our ecosystems and our health.

Emily is a passionate public speaker and educates people about plastics contained in everyday products and the impact these items can have on the environment. She is the youngest and only female recipient of Yachtmaster of the Year, which was awarded to her in 2010 by HRH The Princess Royal, after travelling from the UK to New Zealand on Earthrace, a bio-fuelled boat, followed by travel on Sea Dragon, totalling 60,000 nautical miles.

Emily is one of five volunteers receiving a Points of Light award to mark World Oceans Day on Friday 8 June, recognising their work to support ocean conservation:


In a personal letter to Emily, Prime Minister Theresa May said:

“Your pioneering work is doing so much to increase the visibility of both the need for action against plastic waste in our seas, and the important role women can play in taking on this major conservation challenge. The scientific research being undertaken by your inspirational all-female team of volunteers crewing the eXXpedition voyages is making a significant contribution to tackling this pressing global issue.”

Emily said:

“It’s a real honour to receive this Points of Light award, and it feels so timely that after a decade of slogging away on this issue of marine plastic pollution, it’s now really come into the limelight. And it feels great that the hard work of all of us is now being recognised, and we’re getting traction on the issue, so thank you.”

Pictured below: Emily on expedition (photo credits: Sperry)

Emily analysing a sample of plastic pollution - credit Sperry

Emily Penn giving a briefing on Sea Dragon - photo credit Sperry

Emily surveying beach for microplastic - credit Sperry


Watch Emily discuss her work and award on ITV Wales:

See more about ‘eXXpedition’

The daily Points of Light award recognises outstanding individual volunteers - people who are making a change in their community.

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