Positive futures for polluted rivers and seas

March 3, 2023

Maryna Strokal has ambitions to reduce pollution in rivers and seas. These ambitions came from her childhood. Maryna likes to swim. Together with her twin sister Vita, they were trained professionally; they often went swimming in the Dnipro River and the Black Sea when they were at school. In the past decades, the river and, consequently, the sea has become increasingly polluted with plastics, nutrients and chemicals. Maryna always wanted to contribute to pollution reduction. Therefore, she decided to study water quality, first in Ukraine, her home country, where she went to the field, sampled water and analysed it in a lab.

It was not enough for her. She wanted to learn how to identify sources of pollution and explore pollution-free futures. Therefore, in 2009, Maryna came to Wageningen for her second Master's. Here she also finished her PhD in modelling sources of water pollution and solutions to avoid pollution in the future. Now she is leading a team on modelling water pollution and solutions. She doesn’t do field studies anymore: ‘I am a modeller; I stay inside. Our group integrates knowledge of other research groups in computer models.’

Looking into positive futures

Maryna sees models as tools that help to look into positive futures. ‘Models help to see the bigger picture and solutions. In the field, you cannot look into the future. In models, you can. You can find the sources of the pollution and ways to limit them.’ My team and I use our pollution models to understand the causes of pollution and how we can avoid them in future.’

Dream team

Her main model, Model to Assess River Inputs of pollutaNts to seAs, is named MARINA. This model deals with the causes of pollution that affect marine coastal waters. ‘It is being developed by more than 15 PhDs from different countries and 50 Master students at Wageningen University. There is a whole team behind this success. I am proud of my team; it is the team of my dream’. MARINA has provided the causes of pollution at more than 10,000 rivers on earth that flow into seas and bring pollution.

Maryna believes in a positive future for polluted rivers and seas. Optimistic futures counterbalance the challenges and negative emotions of our time, dealing with climate change and the war in Maryna’s home country. She recently published an article with her twin sister and others about the possible effects of Europe’s Green Deal on the pollution of microplastics in the Black Sea. ‘We looked at which policies are effective in reducing sea pollution. There are a lot of challenges, but we still can avoid almost 85% of microplastics in the sea’.