Imperial College London

DrErikvan Sebille

Faculty of Natural SciencesThe Grantham Institute for Climate Change

Honorary Lecturer



e.van-sebille Website




Sherfield BuildingSouth Kensington Campus





Erik is a professor in oceanograpy and public engagement at Utrecht University, investigating the time scales and pathways of the global ocean circulation. His research 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. 

Erik received his PhD in physical oceanography in 2009 from Utrecht University in the Netherlands. He worked in Europe, the USA, Australia and now the United Kingdom. He authored more than 100 peer-reviewed articles on ocean circulation in journals including ScienceNature CommunicationsPNASGlobal Change Biology and Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Erik currently holds an honorary lectureship at Imperial's Grantham Institute. He is also an Associate Investigator of the Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science. 

Erik is the winner of the 2016 European Geosciences Union (EGU) Ocean Division Outstanding Young Scientist Award. In 2013, Erik was awarded a Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) by the Australian Research Council.

Erik is a strong science communicator, with appearances on international television, radio and newspapers. He was a Media Fellow with the Australian Government Climate Commission and has co-hosted a section on sea level rise in Tuvalu in the international documentary series Tipping Points. He is a sought-after international expert on oceanography, having done over 200 interviews with media outlets including CCN, BBC, NBC, ABC, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, GuardianTIME magazine, AP, and Reuters.

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Erik initiated and developed the website where visitors can interact with how floating debris would spread through the ocean. The website has attracted 70,000 visitors in its first year and has been used internationally in media outlets to illustrate the way plastics and other debris such as from the Fukushima tsunami and from flight MH370 moves through the ocean.

Selected Publications

Journal Articles

van Sebille E, Griffies SM, Abernathey R, et al., 2017, Lagrangian ocean analysis: fundamentals and practices, Ocean Modelling, Vol:121, ISSN:1463-5003, Pages:49-75

van Sebille E, Wilcox C, Lebreton L, et al., 2015, A Global Inventory of Small Floating Plastic Debris, Environmental Research Letters, Vol:10, ISSN:1748-9326, Pages:124006-124006

Wilcox C, Van Sebille E, Hardesty BD, 2015, Threat of plastic pollution to seabirds is global, pervasive, and increasing, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, Vol:112, ISSN:1091-6490, Pages:11899-11904

van Sebille E, Scussolini P, Durgadoo JV, et al., 2015, Ocean currents generate large footprints in marine palaeoclimate proxies., Nat Commun, Vol:6

van Sebille E, 2015, The oceans' accumulating plastic garbage, Physics Today, Vol:68, ISSN:0031-9228, Pages:60-61

Hellweger FL, van Sebille E, Fredrick ND, 2014, Biogeographic patterns in ocean microbes emerge in a neutral agent-based model, Science, Vol:345, ISSN:0036-8075, Pages:1346-1349

van Sebille E, England MH, Froyland G, 2012, Origin, dynamics and evolution of ocean garbage patches from observed surface drifters, Environmental Research Letters, Vol:7, ISSN:1748-9326

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