Alice (Xia) Zhu, M.Sc.
Environmental Analytical Scientist | Plastic Pollution Researcher | Environmental Champion
Alice at Clean up the Don 2018
Alice and Wing Wo (co-organizers) at the Federal Pre-Election Town Hall on Climate Change 2015. From left to right: Alice, moderator Dr. Nelson Wiseman, John McKay, Elizabeth May, Matthew Kellway, and Wing.
Alice and Amanda (co-Chairs of the Environment Committee at Massey College) with guests of the documentary 'Circle of Steel' about a female engineering being laid off in Alberta's oil sands - a meaningful and engaging discussion of the environment, economics, and stereotypes - I for one learned *so* much about the difficulties and reality of working remotely as a female engineer! From left to right: Amanda Loder (co-Chair), Gillian McKercher (director), Alice Zhu (co-Chair), and Chantelle Han (lead actress). Massey College, 2019.
A group of amazing climate champions at a forum on 'Climate Action: Lobbying, Elections, and Paris COP21' in 2015. Quoting: "Below from left to right are: Ellery Fuliere of Toronto350, Lyn Adamson of ClimateFast, Alice Xia Zhu of Climate Impact Network, Cheryl McNamara of Citizens Climate Lobby Toronto, Joy Kennedy of the World Council of Churches, Emmay Mah of Step Up Canada" (from ClimateFast website).
Leadership in Science
Departmental Initiatives, Science Communication, and Translating Science to Policy
I was a co-Chair of the Interdisciplinary Graduate Research and Discovery (IGRAD) Conference in 2021, a university-wide research conference for graduate students to present their research and network with others. I was also a co-Chair of my department's annual research conference, the 6th Doctoral Environmental Science Colloquium (DESC VI), for doctoral students in environmental sciences to present their research. In these roles, I am responsible for inviting guest speakers for the conferences, making the programme, designing the abstract booklets, and making sure things run smoothly the day of. Within my department, I actively participate in faculty searches and offer feedback on the suitability of candidates for positions taking into consideration their presentation abilities, impact of their research, their instructional aptitude, and the relevance of their research to physical and environmental sciences. I also mentor 2-10 students a year when they are working on research projects with me; specifically, I train them on how to process samples for microplastics accordingly, how to use the microscope to quantify microplastic particles, and how to use spectroscopic instrumentation to characterize the particles. I aim to inspire them to become excited by science and to become leaders in their own right. Internationally, I attend 2-3 conferences every year to share my research with others, network with scientists in my field, and co-Chair scientific sessions. Recently, I led a scientific session on the transport and fate of plastic pollution at the 7th International Marine Debris Conference (7IMDC) in Busan, Korea in September 2022. Beyond publishing robust, impactful science, I also dedicate myself to increasing science literacy in the community and translating science into policy. I often communicate my science to the public, and discuss the impact of plastic pollution and how individuals can get involved through workshops, cleanups, and other initiatives offered by the UofT Trash Team; furthermore, I am currently conducting research on sources of plastic pollution that has the potential to inform an international agreement on plastic pollution, a treaty for plastic that is akin to the Paris Agreement for greenhouse gases.
Leadership Roles in the Community
I am a member of the UofT Trash Team, a group dedicated to educating the public about waste management and plastic pollution and taking direct action through community clean-ups. I am also an executive member of People's Climate Movement (PCM), a grassroots organization dedicated to hosting events and campaigning around climate change action in both Toronto and Canada. As part of PCM, I have attended numerous marches on climate change in Toronto, organized initiatives from workshops to town halls to raise awareness of climate change, contributed to Toronto's climate action plan TransformTO, and written several blogs on climate policy. In May of 2022, I joined Fridays for Future Toronto (FFFTO), a local youth organization with chapters around the world that demands accountability from leaders for the impacts of the climate crisis as well as a Just Transition away from fossil fuels. Recently, I helped organize the Global Climate Strike in Toronto that urged political leaders to put people before profit before it is too late.
In September 2021, I co-organized a climate rally called "Toronto on Fire" with members of various environmental grassroots organizations and concerned individuals leading up to the federal snap election, to demand that political leaders treat the climate crisis as an emergency. In November 2021, I spoke at a rally to a crowd of thousands at Queen's Park, Toronto, Canada about how COP26 must be a turning point for global leaders to choose a livable planet over profit and to keep fossil fuels in the ground.
From 2017 to 2019, I served as co-Chair of Massey College's Environment Committee during my time at Massey College as a Junior Fellow. Our college used to provide take-out dinners in paper plates covered in lots of plastic wrap; however, through our hard work we were able to turn the take-out system into a reusable container system. Besides this main initiative, the Environment Committee also placed recycling posters throughout the college to remind fellows of which products can be recycled, held a screening of a documentary discussing the lives of women impacted by layoffs in Alberta's oil sands, and we hosted trips around Toronto including nature walks in High Park, a tour of Allan Gardens Conservatory, and to the Saturday farmer's market at Evergreen Brickworks. Through my position I learned so much more about environmental campaigning and environmental ethics!
At the end of 2015, I attended the Paris Climate Summit (COP21) as part of a student delegation from the School of Environment, University of Toronto to increase the youth presence at COP and to report back to the student body about the latest updates. An agreement was reached; however, much more work needs to be done to make sure countries continue to increase their starting emission reduction pledges up to levels necessary to avoid severe consequences of climate change (described in the Paris Climate Agreement as the "ratchet mechanism").
Leadership on Campus
I have served as the Sustainability Commissioner of my university's Student's Union from 2015-2017. As the head of the commission, I have held biweekly meetings throughout the year and interacted with students to get a sense of what sustainability projects they would like to see on campus. I have learned so much about delegation of tasks, communication skills, event planning, and overall how to lead a vibrant group of students to accomplish amazing tasks and host numerous successful campaigns and events for our student community. Examples of past events we hosted include: a climate change rally on Halloween ("Climate change is spooky!") to get students to write to their MPs in 2016, a conference called "What's Next for Canada?" in 2016 to discuss the Paris Climate Summit, a DIY beeswax lotion bar workshop as part of EcoFest 2017, an Eco-Coffee House in 2017... and more!
I also served as the Sustainability Commissioner for the Victoria University Students' Administrative Council (VUSAC) from 2014-2015. My commission helped to organize a pilot composting system in a student residence, a federal pre-election town hall on climate change, and a sustainable fashion show in 2015 where we donated proceeds to support sustainable fashion.
During my undergraduate studies, I founded numerous student organizations including the Annual InnovaMaster's Design Competition, an engineering design competition that poses students with a complex global question and asks them to design a prototype and business model to answer the question within a set timeframe, and Climate Impact Network, an organization dedicated to raising awareness of climate change and increasing climate literacy within youth. The Climate Impact Network team hosted a Sustainable Food Conference in 2014 to raise awareness of sustainable low-carbon food choices and labels, and a Federal Pre-Election Town Hall on Climate Change in 2015 to discuss the climate platforms of federal parties leading up to the Canadian federal election at the end of 2015. I also founded WasteFree TakeOut, a social enterprise dedicated to helping local food provides shift from a single-use Styrofoam takeout container business model to a reusable takeout container model. My passion for environmental change and leadership led me to be named an Everyday Political Citizen by Samara Canada in 2015, a Top 25 Environmentalists Under 25 nominee by The Starfish Canada in 2016, and the recipient of the Douglas Pimlott Graduating Award by the School of Environment, University of Toronto in 2017.
Please see below for a list of all of the organizations I have founded, co-founded, or taken part in throughout my high school and university years.
Current and Previous Organizations, Startups, and Initiatives
Founder or Co-Founder of:
Conference of Parties 21st Session (COP21) University of Toronto Delegation Team 2015-2016
Climate Impact Network (and previously Students' Climate Change Action Network) 2013-2016
Innovamasters Not-for-Profit Organization and cross-University Initiative 2013-2016
HungerSquad International Mobile Application 2014-2015
Wastefree TakeOut Social Enterprise 2013-2015
Also involved with:
Waste literacy and action
UofT Trash Team
Global Leadership Organization - Sustainability Workshops
The Starfish Canada (writer)
UofT Sustainable Food Conference (lead organizer)
People's Climate Movement
UofT350.org, Fossil Divestment Campaign at UofT
TCAN Steering Community (Toronto Climate Action Network)
Step Up Canada! Initiative
Polanyi Conference on Science and Social Responsibility
MidSummer Night's Run
Harbourfront Summer Festivals
Epilepsy Toronto Holiday Gift Wrapping
Daily Break Food Bank - Annual Holiday Food Bank Organizer in the Scarborough Region
December 6th Initiatives to End Violence Against Women
Master Fine Arts School
Provincial and National-Level Competitive Badminton
Shad Valley International
J'Explore French Immersion Program