Environmental science graduate takes research to the next level – UofSC News & Events


Emma DeLoughry Turns Her South Carolina Plastic Pollution Study Into Documentary To Air On ETV



As a graduate student in environmental science, Emma DeLoughry was inspired by an internship at the South Carolina Aquarium and what she saw in her own backyard studying plastic pollution in state waterways.

Most of her research came from campaigns and projects at the aquarium, but the visual engine was what she saw in Columbia’s three rivers.

“I lived right next to Riverfront Park in Columbia and in my undergraduate career at UofSC we often went into the community to help with the cleanup,” says DeLoughry, 2019 Environmental Science, 2021 Master of Earth and Environment Resource Management. “It was then that I saw the extent of plastic waste in our waterways.

His research has shown that hundreds of thousands of plastic debris have been collected from South Carolina’s waterways in less than five years.

“We don’t realize how harmful plastic waste can become and how it spreads,” she says.

To bring the problem to the public, she decided to make a movie.

“A movie is not traditional for a project like this, however, I wanted to do something where I could affect a change in behavior,” she says.

While DeLoughry knew the science and had researched, she knew next to nothing about documentary filmmaking. It was then that she tapped into the resources of the vast College of Arts and Sciences at the University of South Carolina.

Media arts teacher Laura Kissel was one of the many people who helped DeLoughry develop the skills needed to make the documentary.

“What’s unique about Emma is that she came into my office at the start of her masters, asking if it was possible for someone like her with a background in science and not in film and media to become a documentary maker, ”Kissel said. “I absolutely said yes and take my documentary course.”

DeLoughry took more than one course and worked hard outside of the classroom to improve his film skills.

“She worked really hard to develop the skills she needed to be able to use a more sophisticated camera and learn editing software,” says Kissel. “She has spent a lot of time outside of class updating herself technically while building strong relationships with students in our media arts programs.”

One of these students, Luismario Rosas Rivera from the School of Visual Art and Design, worked as a videographer and photographer on the project.

“The movie wouldn’t have turned out the way it did without him,” DeLoughry said.

The project received funding from a variety of sources, including the Hootie & the Blowfish Foundation, the UofSC’s Arnold School of Public Health, and the Southeast Coastal Ocean Observing Regional Association.

And now his film will be shown on South Carolina Educational Television.

“I am delighted to have the opportunity, through my documentary broadcast on SC ETV, to reach a wider audience to raise awareness and effect change about our plastic pollution crisis,” DeLoughry said. “One of the best things I have learned through this process has been the number of passionate people who are dedicated to solving this problem.”

Banner image: Congaree Riverkeeper Bill Stangler guides a boat down the river. (Photo by Luismario Rosas Rivera)


Broadcast details

Former student Emma DeLoughry Macroplastics in South Carolina Waters: Connecting the Midlands to the Coast the documentary will premiere at 7:30 p.m. on December 15 on SC ETV. The film is also available on the documentary’s website.


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Subjects: Alumni, Faculty, Research, Experiential Learning, Graduate Studies, Careers, College of Arts and Sciences


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