Lana Van Note



Hi! My name is Lana Van Note, and I am currently a senior at the Marine Academy of Technology and Environmental Science in Manahawkin, NJ.  Growing up on the Jersey Shore, my fond summer beach memories are intertwined with issues from white (plastic) pollution. Too frequently I’ve found myself picking up a bottle cap instead of a clam shell.

Enjoying participating in my school science fair since first grade, I decided at the age of eleven that I wanted my future science projects to do more than just fill the slot on my report card. I wanted them to mean something. 


To have worth. 


To make an impact within the scientific community. 


To better the world we live in.

What better way than to tackle an issue I’ve been encountering for over a decade? I started off by examining the rate at which mealworms are able to digest different types of plastics. Six abstracts later, I'd studied soil and water microorganisms and their ability to biodegrade plastics (hello Pseudomonas putida!), the effects of

bisphenol A (BPA) degradation on brine shrimp in a simulated ocean setting, and the consequences of generational polyethylene biodegradation on microorganisms. I’ve participated in over 25 science competitions, winning over 20 awards and honors and sharing research on a national level. 


This past year, I created a novel bioplastic formula including bamboo and cricket, a variation of which is the tannin-based BioBead. Following my eleven-year-old self's promise, I chose to do more with my developed bioplastic than simply report the facts and figures.

Hence, the Ersatz Project was born.


Now, instead of dreading the annual presentations to various experts in the fields of microbiology and chemistry like some of my classmates, I embrace them as opportunities to affect someone. Would I make the judges think twice before they choose to carry their items with a single-use bag on their way home from the fair? Would they retrieve that empty water bottle that blew away from them on a windy day instead of letting it roll down the storm drain? While I can’t say for sure, I hope that by the end of this paragraph,

I’ve left that impact upon you!

Below: My research journey on the biodegradation of plastic began in 7th grade.

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7th Grade - Examining mealworms and their ability to break down polystyrene sparked my interest.


10th Grade -  I was impacted by the way generations of native water and soil microorganisms negatively reacted to the plastic biodegradation process. I had my own proof that using these microbes to eat away the plastic would not be a tangible solution.

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8th Grade - Isolated specific organisms such as Pseudomonas putida and Bacillus sp. responsible for biodegradation of polymers.

Click here to get an in-depth look at my most recent work!