All-Woman Crew Set Sail For Science

By Angeljean Chiaramida
The Daily News of Newburyport, Mass.


Currently on a ship in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, a scientist with Salisbury roots is continuing her lifelong mission of protecting the environment and humans from the pollution dangers modern life proliferates.

According to Tom Hughes, of Newburyport’s Hughes Environmental Consulting, Salisbury native Diana Papoulias is one of 14 women who have embarked on a ground-breaking journey from the Canary Islands across the Atlantic to Martinique.

On their 72-foot sailing vessel the Sea Dragon, the women on the scientific mission known as eXXpedition will explore the issue of the chemicals in the sea and global environment that disrupt the normal functions of wildlife and humans, causing disease, he said, including breast cancer.

Hughes said this remarkable endeavor is just one more example of Papoulias’ dedication to her life’s work in ecotoxicology, fish ecology, and environmental causes. Papoulias, the daughter of Salisbury’s late Selectman Tony Papoulias and his wife, Gertrude, has a doctorate in fish endocrinology, Hughes said. After retiring from 25 years of service with the U.S. Department of the Interior, she splits her time between her home in Missouri with her college professor husband, David Galat, and consulting work with Hughes Environmental.

“She’s done really great work through her whole career in her field,” Hughes said. “She’s been invaluable to us. We get compliments on her work; she’s very thorough.”

Hughes, who is related to Papoulias by marriage, has been aware of her career for decades. Papoulias grew up in Salisbury, he said, graduated from Triton and went on to produce cutting-edge work in her field. So impressed was he of the mission she’s taking on with the eXXpedition voyage, Hughes Environmental Consulting is one of the project’s sponsors.

Another reason for his support of this journey, he said, is that as the father of two daughters currently majoring in science at area colleges, the 14 woman scientists are great role models. A former high school science teacher, Hughes said he saw his female students hesitant to enter careers in the sciences, seeing it as a male-dominated field.

“The fact that 14 women can navigate across the Atlantic while performing valuable research provides inspiration for young women like them,” Hughes said.

According to her brother, local attorney Tony Papoulias Jr.
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, this voyage is just one more example of his sister’s commitment to doing things that are a service to humanity. He wasn’t surprised at her taking on this challenge, he said, for she’s spent her life working for others.

“Diana, while she was still in school, developed the concept of a fish farm for an orphanage in Mexico,” he said. “The project made them self-sustaining. My father and mother brought us up to see life outside ourselves and to bring issues we felt were important to the forefront, which is what Diana is doing now.”

Tony Papoulias, who spent years in the Merchant Marines prior to going into law, feels confident that his sister, after growing up beside the ocean, knows her way around a seafaring vessel. And the crew, he said, has solid skills.

According to the information released on eXXpedition, the 14 women will participate in biomonitoring to assess humanity’s personal exposure to known toxic substances.

“Through our personal exploration of our internal environment, we hope to better understand the levels of toxic exposure in women,” according to eXXpedition’s press release. “Through a shared mission to understand this invisible pollution, we hope to create a conversation which sheds light on the science of ecotoxicology and inspire positive actions to tackle the root cases.”

There’s a lot to be proud on in this mission, Hughes said, and in all the other missions Papoulias has taken on during her career to offer others her expertise, even outside the country in places like China, Russia and countries in South America.

“My late dad, my mom and I have always been very proud of both of my sisters,” Tony Papoulias said. “They epitomize what it means to be persons who ‘thinks globally and acts locally and globally.’ Both have always been determined and active socially and environmentally conscious individuals. I am just sorry that Dad is not here to see this.”

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