Dr. Sherri A. Mason

Dr. Sherri A. Mason Dr. Sherri A. Mason
Professor of Chemistry
Environmental Sciences Program, Coordinator
340 Science Center
State University of New York at Fredonia
Fredonia, NY 14063
Tel: (716) 673-3292
Fax: (716) 673-3347



My research group is poised at the forefront of research on plastic pollution within freshwater ecosystems, in general, and the Laurentian Great Lakes, more specifically.

Fredonia lies 2 miles from the shores of Lake Erie, one of the 5 Great Lakes, which in total comprise the largest freshwater ecosystem in the world. In collaboration with the 5 Gyres Institute, we conducted the first-ever survey for plastic pollution within the open-waters of the Great Lakes. Not surprisingly (given the abundance of plastic within the world's oceans) we have found plastic particles within all 5 of the Great Lakes. The counts obtained, especially those within Lakes Erie and Ontario, rival those within the world's ocean. Even further, what surprised us the most is the size of the particles we found. To date ~70% of the plastic we skim off the surface of the Great Lakes is between one third and one millimeter in diameter. Tiny. We have had several (hundred) news reports as a result of our work. Here are links to a few:

During the summers of 2012 and 2013 we conducted open-water sampling campaigns in all 5 of the Laurentian Great Lakes. We currently have related plastic pollution research projects going in:

  • Wastewater Treatment Facilities - to support our hypothesis that plastics make their way through the process to be discharged into nearby bodies of water.
  • Food Web Assessment - to determine if the plastic within the open-water is making its way into and migrating up the food web.
  • Stream Sampling - in collaboration with the USGS we are collecting samples from 28 of the major tributaries into the Great Lakes to determine the influx of plastics via this route.
  • Sediment Analysis - also in collaboration with the USGS we are collecting sediment samples to analyze for plastic debris since half of plastics that are manufactured sink.

We hope to slowly build up an understanding of the types and abundance of plastics within the Great Lakes, laying the groundwork for important additional investigations into the degradation of the plastics, their penchant for adsorbing persistent organic chemicals, and their impact on aquatic organisms.

In addition to the above current research projects, my background is in atmospheric kinetics and the impact of combustion emissions. As such my research group has previously conducted research projects on the impact of forest fires on atmospheric chemistry, computational model development, computational chemical analyses, smog chamber studies, food waste analyses and biogas production studies.


McCormick, A., T.J. Hoellein, S. A. Mason, J. Schluep, and J.J. Kelly, ‘Microplastic in an abundant and distinct microbial habitat in an urban river,’ Environ. Sci. Tech., 48, 11863, 2014.

Free, C. M., O. P. Jensen, S. A. Mason, M. Eriksen, N. J. Williamson, and B. Boldgiv, ‘High-levels of microplastic pollution in a large, remote, mountain lake,’ Marine Pollution Bulletin, 85, 156, 2014.

Erikson, M., S. A. Mason, S. Wilson, C. Box, A. Zellers, W. Edwards, H. Farley, and S. Amato, ‘Microplastic Pollution in the Surface Waters of the Laurentian Great Lakes,’ Marine Pollution Bulletin, 77, 177, 2013.

Mason, S. A., J. Arey, and R. Atkinson, ‘Kinetics and Products of the OH Radical-Initiated Reaction of 1,4-Butanediol and Rate Constants for the Reactions of OH Radicals with 4-Hydroxybutanal and 3-Hydroxypropanal,’ Environ. Sci. Tech., 44, 707, 2010.

Mason, S. A., J. Arey, and R. Atkinson, ‘Rate Constants for the Gas-Phase Reactions of NO3 Radicals and O3 with C6-C14 1-Alkenes and 2-Methyl-1-alkenes at 296 ± 2 K,’ J. Phys. Chem. A, 113, 5649, 2009.

Mason, S. A., J. Trentmann, T. Winterrath, R. J. Yokelson, T. J. Christian, L. J. Carlson, T. R. Warner, L. C. Wolfe, and M. O. Andreae, ‘Intercomparison of Two Box Models of the Chemical Evolution in Biomass-Burning Smoke Plumes,’ J. Atmos. Chem., 55, 273, 2006.

Trentmann, J., R. J. Yokelson, P. V. Hobbs, T. Winterrath, T. J. Christian, M. O. Andreae, and S. A. Mason, ‘An Analysis of the Chemical Processes in the Smoke Plume from a Savanna Fire,’ J. Geophys. Res., 110, D12301, 2005.

Mason, S. A., R. J. Field, R. J. Yokelson, M. A. Kochivar, M. R. Tinsley, D. E. Ward, and W.-M. Hao, ‘Complex Effects Arising in Smoke Plume Simulations due to Inclusion of Direct Emissions of Oxygenated Organic Species from Biomass Combustion,’ J. Geophys. Res., 106, D12527, 2001.

Community Interest Powerpoints/Presentations

Beads of Destruction

The Walrus Talks Water May 2014
Great Lakes Plastic Pollution 2012 Illinois Sustainable Technology Center November 2013
The Problem with Plastic & a Proposed Local Solution Rotary Club April 2011
Tires-to-Energy, Hydrofracking, & the Case for Renewable Energy Edinboro University March 2011
STEMming your Career Fredonia March 2011
The Chemistry of Combustion Alleghany College February 2011
Why Educate for Sustainability? Jamestown Community College February 2011
How to Reduce your Carbon Forkprint League of Women Voters March 2010

Support for our work comes from:

Burning River Foundation Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

Chemistry and Biochemistry Department Office

221 Science Center
State University of New York at Fredonia
Fredonia, NY 14063
(716) 673-3281