Univ.-Prof. Dipl.-Psych. Sabine Pahl, MSc PhD

Sabine Pahl is a Social Psychologist engaged in basic and applied research and her applied work focuses on the human dimension in environmental issues. She investigates perceptions and behaviour change, particularly in the area of protecting marine environments, marine litter and microplastics and energy efficiency.

Other applied work examines restorative effects of natural environments including the use of natural environments in healthcare. Sabine has been involved in research projects funded by EPSRC, ESRC, DEFRA, DECC, NERC, UNEP, FP7, Interreg and H2020. She has more than 70 peer-review publications (google h-factor = 30) and serves on the Editorial Boards of the two key journals in the field, Journal of Environmental Psychology and Environment & Behavior, as well as the new journal Microplastics and Nanoplastics.

Her projects typically span research and application in interdisciplinary teams. She has provided science advice and input into policy at national, European and international levels, always contributing psychological and behavioural science perspectives. 


At the international level, she has contributed to two microplastics reports with the Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Pollution (GESAMP WG40), and has led the UNEP-funded global stocktake of actions against plastic pollution in 2020. She was co-chair of an interdisciplinary working group that reported to the EU Group of Chief Scientific Advisors (SAPEA, 2019) and has contributed to a G7 working group in Oct 2019 and a WHO working group in March 2020.

Sabine is also Honorary Professor of Applied Social Psychology at the University of Plymouth.

 Curriculum Vitae

PDF (Janary 2022)

 Sabine's projects

This is an overview of my recent and ongoing projects that started while I was still at the University of Plymouth in the UK, where I maintain an Honorary position and close links. In 2020 I was part of the team that won a prestigious Queen’s Anniversary Prize for our interdisciplinary work on plastic pollution. 


Microplastics In Europe’s Freshwater Ecosystems: from sources to solutions

The LimnoPlast project addresses this issue by devoting its research and training program to Marine Plastics (MP) in Europe’s freshwater ecosystems. It challenges traditional barriers between disciplines and combines environmental, technical and social sciences in order to tackle the MP problem from its sources to potential solutions.

sand beach with micro plastic pollution

2017 - 2021

Blue Communities in South East Asia

A £5.7million Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) project ‘Building capacity for sustainable interactions with marine ecosystems for the benefit of the health, well-being, food security and livelihoods of coastal communities in East and Southeast Asia’. Blue Communities has 12 Sub-Projects and Sabine leads Project 12 which uses scenarios as tools to explore and communicate future outcomes in order to mobilise action.

Fishermen from Indonisia grinning in camera while presenting their fish prey

Preventing Plastic Pollution

Interreg project: Reduce the impacts of plastic pollution in the marine environment

By looking at the catchment from source to sea, the project will identify and target hotspots for plastic, embed behaviour change in local communities and businesses, and implement effective solutions and alternatives. Sabine is working with a team of environmental psychologists to develop a framework for evaluating behaviour change for the diverse initiatives and provide an overview of the academic literature on behaviour change relevant to different sectors such as tourism, education, agriculture.

Hand picking up plastic garbage with shovel at sea

UNEP Stocktake

flow of plastic to the ocean

Sabine and her team were tasked to lead a global stock take on actions contributing to the flow of plastic to the ocean, where actions included anything from policies, bans, education and behavior change programmes to technical and economic measures. 

UNEP conference in Bankok

 Other collaborations

Other collaborations include

a) a project on the perceived risk and pathways of microplastics with the German Bundesamt für Risikobewertung (BfR) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)

b) a project investigating the how the plastic bag levy works in practice in Namibia, with the University of Plymouth and the Gobabeb Namib Research Institute

c) Sabine is a collaborator on the research excellence cluster Social Mobilization On Climate Change Using Digital Tools at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada


Sabine will be working with a range of UK and Indonesian organisations on a new project called GCRF PISCES which will look at plastic pollution in Indonesia from an interdisciplinary, holistic perspective.

 Sabine's recent publications

  • * Oturai, N., Pahl, S. & Syberg, K. (2022). How can we test plastic pollution perceptions and behavior? A feasibility study on Danish children participating in “the Mass Experiment”. Science of the Total Environment, doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2021.150914.

  • * Davison, S. M. C., White, M. P., Pahl, S., Taylor, T., Fielding, K., Roberts, B. R., Economou, T., McMeel, O., Kellett, P. & Fleming, L. E. (2021). Public concern about, and desire for research into, the human health effects of marine plastic pollution: Results from a 15-country survey across Europe and Australia. Global Environmental Change. 102309. doi://10.1016/J.GLOENVCHA.2021.102309    
  • Wyer, N. A., Hollins, T. & Pahl, S. (2021). Remembering Social Events: A Construal Level Approach. Personal and Social Psychology Bulletin, doi: 10.1177/01461672211038188.
  • Steg, L., Perlaviciute, G., Sovacool, B., Bonaiuto, M., Diekmann, A., Filippini, M., Hindriks, F., Jakobsson Bergstad, C., Matthies, E., Matti, S., Mulder, M., Nilsson, A., Pahl, S., Roggenkamp, M., Schuitema, G., Stern, P. C., Tavoni, M., Thøgersen, J. & Woerdman, E. (2021). A research agenda to better understand the human dimensions of energy transitions. Frontiers in Psychology Environmental Psychology, 12: 672776.
  • Richter, I., Avillanosa, A., Cheung, V., Goh, H. C., Johari, S., Kay, S., Maharja, C., Nguyen, T. H., Pahl, S., Sugarjito, J., Sumeldan, J., Nguyen, Q. V., Vu, H. T., Syazana, W. N. & Austen. M. C. (2021). Looking through the COVID-19 window of opportunity: Future scenarios arising from the COVID-19 pandemic across five case study sites. Frontiers in Psychology Organizational Psychology, 12, 1-12.  
  • van Valkengoed, A. M., Steg, L., Perlaviciute, G., Schultz, P. W., Brosch, T., Gatersleben, B., Nordlund, A., Pahl, S. & Whitmarsh, L. (2021). Theory enhances impact. Reply to: ‘The case for impact-focused environmental psychology’. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 75, 101597.
  • Goodhew, J., Pahl, S., King, K., Sanders, M., Elliott, P., Fox, M., Boomsma, C. & Goodhew, S. (2021).  Engaging People with Energy Efficiency: A Randomised Controlled Trial Testing the Effects of Thermal Imaging Visuals in a Letter Communication. Sustainability, 13 (6).
  • Fleming, L. E., Depledge, M., Bouley, T., Britton, E., Dupont, S., Eatock, C., Garside, R., Heymans, J. J., Kellett, P., Lloret, J., Maycock, B., Pahl, S., Philippart, C. J. M., Roberts, B. R., Thiele, T., White, M. P., Wuijts, S. (2021). The Ocean Decade - Opportunities for Oceans and Human Health Programs to Contribute to Public Health. American Journal of Public Health, 111(5), 808-811.
  • Syberg, K., Nielsen, M. B., Westergaard Clausen, L. P., Van Calster, G., Van Wezel, A., Rochman, C., Koelmans, A. A., Cronin, R., Pahl, S., Foss Hansen, S. (2021) Regulation of plastic from a circular economy perspective. Current Opinion in Green and Sustainable Chemistry, 29, 100462.
  • Richter, I., Gabe-Thomas, E., Maharja, C., Nguyen, T. H., Praptiwi, R., Pahl, S. (2021) Virtual capacity building for international research collaborations in times of COVID-19 and# Flygskam. Frontiers in Communication, 5, 146.