April 15th, 2015
5 Gyres Pushing The Frontier Of Plastic Pollution Science
5 Gyres will be at sea for 3 weeks crossing the N. Atlantic Subtropical Gyre from the Bermuda to Iceland. Departing on June 7th, there will be 9 seats for guest crew, who will participate in every aspect of sailing as well as learn about plastic marine pollution from expert scientists onboard. Our scientific work will tell us what’s in the “Sub Polar” gyre, and we’ll use this data to recalibrate our ocean models. Here’s an overview of what we’ll be doing.
Manta, hi-speed and vertical trawling – These three nets sample the sea in different ways, measuring surface volume slowly, surface abundance fast, and multiple levels below the surface simultaneously. The end result is a plethora of data like no other voyage in the past. It answers the question, “What’s on the surface vs. what’s below.” We’ll find out.
Visual observations – Since we can’t catch the big stuff in our nets, we sit on deck while the manta trawl is out and look for it. This creates data about the most significant size range of plastic pollution that most scientist overlook. Beware of scientists telling how much plastic is in the ocean if they are not monitoring the big stuff. One lost net can turn into millions of small degraded fibers. It’s important to monitor their abundance.
iGyre – Using data from all expedition trawls, we will recalibrate our current global model to determine a new estimate of the total weight and particle count of plastic pollution in the N. Atlantic. These data, along with other data from recent expeditions, together will provide a new global estimate. Our current estimate, based on 24 expeditions is 5.25 trillion particles weighing .64million tons. We’ll add expedition #25 to the equation and see what we learn about the N. Atlantic.
Visiting scientists – We plan to have a third scientist on the expedition roster, in addition to our own staff scientists. In the past this has lead to research on pollutants in fish, POPs on plastic, surveys of microbial communities on plastic, even sampling for cesium137 from the Fukushima disaster. Visiting scientists are key to creating long term positive results from our work. Collaboration is key to our success.
So that’s rounds our research program. Let us know if you want to know more details, have ideas to contribute, or are aching to come along. There’s still a bunk or two left to fill! More info on the expedition and application procedure HERE.