Algalita Team

captain-charles-moore-algalitaCAPTAIN CHARLES MOORE


A third generation resident of Long Beach, California, Captain Charles Moore grew up in and on the Pacific Ocean. His father was an industrial chemist and avid sailor who took young Charles and his siblings to remote Guadalupe Island in the Caribbean and many times to the family’s second home in Hawaii. He founded the Algalita Marine Research Institute in 1994 “to protect and restore the marine environment.” Captain Moore found his calling in 1997 on his return voyage after the Transpac yacht race, when he changed course from the usual sea route from Hawaii and saw an unrecognizable Pacific Ocean. “Every time I came on deck to survey the horizon, I saw a soap bottle, bottle cap or a shard of plastic waste bobbing by. Here I was in the middle of the ocean and there was nowhere I could go to avoid the plastic.” Through Algalita Research Institute (now Algalita Marine Research and Education), he began to monitor conditions in what has became known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a convergence zone of plastic pollution within the North Pacific Central Gyre. In collaboration with researchers at the Southern California Coastal Water Research Project, he developed the first protocols for monitoring marine plastic debris which are now used worldwide by oceanographic researchers and citizen scientists.  Since then, Captain Moore has become a world-renowned expert on the issue, dedicating most of his time and resources to understanding the crisis and seeking to inspire solutions. As Algalita’s Research Director, Captain Moore and his team have logged 15 voyages to the Garbage Patch since 1999.

Moore’s entrepreneurial brand of environmentalism has brought worldwide attention to the issue of marine plastic pollution, and work has inspired dozens of activist groups and civic movements to reduce plastic waste at its source. In his blunt, rousing style, he speaks to audiences across the globe, explaining how plastic debris should be seen as the No. 1 threat to the planet.  Moore won the 2014 Peter Benchley Ocean Awards “Hero of the Seas” award, among many others, and has been featured in major media forums including National Public Radio, Rolling Stone, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, NBC, CBS, CNN, “The Late Show with David Letterman, The Colbert Report, ABC’s “Nightline” and “Good Morning America,” and The Wall Street Journal. His work has been published in many scientific journals and magazines, including Marine Pollution Bulletin and Philosophical Transactions of The Royal Society.  His book, Plastic Ocean, was published in October 2011 and has been translated into Japanese and Italian with other languages in the works. In June 2012, Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, Canada, bestowed on Captain Moore a well-earned Doctor of Laws Honoris Causa.

katie-allen-plastic-pollution-solutions-ocean-algalita-executive-directorKATIE ALLEN


Katie Allen is an innovator and educator, passionate about inspiring others to discover and pursue their unique contribution to the world.

After completing her music degree, Katie followed her dreams of becoming a touring musician until landing a job managing artist accounts at Warner Bros Records. Four years into her career, her life was changed after watching Captain Charles Moore’s interview on the David Letterman Show.  Her desire to join Algalita’s fight against plastic pollution was so strong she left the music industry to pursue a degree in science education and a career in ocean conservation.

Katie spent five years under the mentorship of Captain Moore as Algalita’s Education Director.  During that time, she designed and sustained programs that continue to reach thousands of students and teachers every year. By bridging real-world science with real-time solutions, Katie transformed the organization’s reach by igniting an international, youth-led movement fueled by more than 100,000 youth in 19 countries. She has multiple articles published around the world and is a frequent keynote speaker at ocean conservation conferences.

Katie’s strong vision for Algalita’s future led her to the helm of the organization. In January 2016, she took on the role of Executive Director, where she provides leadership and oversight to a team of passionate scientists, educators, and ocean conservationists.

As a Southern California native, Katie loves hiking, music, and spending time in the water with her husband and two-year old son, Oliver.

Read about Katie’s vision for the future.



Before Gwen joined Algalita in 2002, she was climbing mountains, binoculars in hand, spying on bighorn sheep in her job as a wildlife biologist for the California Department of Fish and Game.

Gwen has spent over 30 years doing biological research. She holds a Master of Science degree in Biology from California State University at Long Beach, and her areas of expertise are the early life histories of fish and fish ingestion of plastics. As Algalita’s Chief Scientist and Research Biologist, Gwen assists Captain Moore with research designs, data collection, and analyses of samples from the North Pacific Gyre and coastal California waters. She has conducted field research at sea aboard the ORV Alguita, and oversees Algalita’s custom GIS containing all of our expedition data since 1999.

Gwen feels strongly about citizen science and engaging the public with our research findings. She has presented papers in scientific as well as public forums – you can check them out on our Research pages – and regularly participates in our youth education programs.

 stephanie-algalitaSTEPHANIE SHAO



Stephanie was always interested in the environment but was unaware of the issues of plastic pollution and the gyres until reading Captains Moore’s book, Plastic Ocean. One day, she mentioned to her friend about the book she had just started. The friend got up, went to another room and came back with the same book. In an even bigger coincidence, that friend was Mike Baker, who was with Captain Moore on a couple of the trips mentioned in Plastic Ocean.

After learning about her interest in the issue, Mike arranged for Stephanie to meet and join Captain Moore on an outing on the famed ORV Alguita and few months later she started volunteering as a research intern for Algalita. Since then she has expanded her role with the organization to become Resource Development Coordinator.

dale-selvam-algalitaDALE SELVAM



As a New Zealander and lifetime sailor, surfer and diver, Dale has spent many days on and around the oceans and waters of the world. He came to Algalita in 2013 through his experience as a captain with Pangaea Explorations and 5 Gyres, for whom he logged many miles trawling for plastic through the North and South Atlantic, North and South Pacific, and Patagonia.  In 2013 Dale assisted Captain Moore with a major refit of the ORV Alguita in preparation for the 2014 North Pacific Gyre Expedition, and served as co-Captain on the voyage. As Global Development Coordinator, Dale supports Captain Moore’s role as a world-class defender of the oceans, and develops our collaborative partnerships with like-minded organizations and individuals.

Ballent-Algalita Bio picANIKA BALLENT



Anika dove into the underwater world of plastic in 2010 when she was in her second year studying Earth and Space Sciences at Jacobs University in Bremen Germany. Actually, it was Algalita’s website where she first read about and saw images of the serious but then little known problem of marine plastic pollution. In 2012, after completing a Bachelors thesis in which she researched the transport properties of pre-production pellets in a submarine canyon environment, she returned to her hometown, Long Beach CA, and joined the team of Algalita scientist and educators. During her time at Algalita she has developed her new found passion. She has been involved with organizing events such as the Plastic Ocean Pollution International Youth Summit, she has tabled many events for youth and locals alike such as the Children’s Water Day Festival in Irvine and various clean-up events. Developing hands-on education materials and inspiring care for the planet by teaching about plastic pollution at middle schools and high schools across Southern California have been some of the highlights of her experience at Algalita. She has also been a part of the research team, processing gyre samples and sampling plastics and fish from the Alguita with Captain Moore and Dave Selvam. Currently, she is pursuing a Master’s of Geology at the University of Western Ontario in Canada where she is investigating microplastic pollution in the sediments of the Great Lakes. Anika sees a future in which plastic pollution is absent from our planet’s beautiful ecosystems and she takes each day as an opportunity to contribute to the plastic pollution solution, one which will require teamwork, understanding, innovation, patience, optimism and dedication from all of us involved.


nicole-algalita-plastic-pollution-solutionsNICOLE CAUDANA



Nicole Caudana is a recent graduate from Humboldt State University where she majored in Environmental Education and Interpretation and minored in Oceanography and Business Administration. Nicole has always had a deep love for the ocean and growing up in Orange County allowed her to spend most of her time at the beach. Since going to college in northern California, Nicole has become more aware of the challenges the oceans face such as overfishing, ocean acidification but primarily the plastic pollution problem.

She learned about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch during her freshman year at Humboldt State and the following summer attended a Sierra Club to see Captain Charles Moore speak. This is where she first heard about Algalita. For the years following, Nicole became increasingly more involved with the plastic pollution issue and became more passionate about educating the public about this major issue. She was an education intern at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach and then became the director of the Environmental Education Club that next semester. She taught after-school lessons focused on ocean plastic pollution and other environmental topics at local elementary schools as well as participated in many beach clean-ups throughout the state of California.

There is nothing that makes Nicole happier than being in, around or near the ocean and learning about all the amazing life that the ocean contains. Her energizing passion truly shows when she is talking about the ocean and all the ways people can help make the ocean a cleaner, and healthier ecosystem. Nicole believes that through education, there will be a change in behavior and this is why she is a part of Algalita.

“Through interpretation, understanding; through understanding, appreciation; through appreciation, protection” – Freeman Tilden





Anushka is a high school student at Aliso Niguel High School in Aliso Viejo, Orange County, California. As a scientific mind and advocate for social change, she was appalled at the discovery that society’s convenient plastic addiction is a direct cause of the innate harm inflicted upon our oceans. Upon making this discovery, Anushka advocated for change locally and worked with the Surfrider Foundation to ban plastic bags in Huntington Beach. She later campaigned for a ban on polystrene (styrofoam) foodware in the city, for which the Girl Scouts of Orange County awarded her a Take Action Award. She was responsible for the continuation of The Rakefish Project and its Australia tour, started by a school in Connecticut to help raise environmental awareness within youth. Anushka volunteers with the “Ripple Kids”, a youth outreach program, and joined with Surfrider to educate students like herself about the detriments of plastic. She volunteers and educates people about the harms of plastic on the environment at Surfrider run beach clean ups, and is a lead Youth Ambassador with Algalita Marine Research and Education, where she helps to run the annual youth summit. She was awarded the Environmental Sustainability award by her school’s environmental specialist, Mrs. Pam Conti, and was invited on Indian National Television to speak about many things, including her endeavors with Algalita, The Rakefish, and finding an environmentally sustainable balance.