The research we are doing
The 5 Gyres team collects samples of the oceans surface to quantity the mass, size, color and type of plastic pollution floating in the gyres. We are also collecting fish to study the ingestion of microplastic particles.
See our master timeline
“What is the abundance of plastic pollution in the 5 Subtropical Gyres”
We will use a manta trawl to collect 50 surface samples from each of the North and South Atlantic gyres. The trawl, towed behind the vessel at 2.5-3.5 knots, will collect surface debris greater than 333 microns. These samples will be sorted into size and type of plastic. Finally we will measure the total weight of plastic pollution compared to the area and volume of the sea we sampled.
“Are surface foraging fish in the Sargasso Sea ingesting micro-plastic particles?”
Foraging nocturnal fish caught during our expeditions are dissected to analyze stomach contents. Stomach contents will be sorted and weighed. Tissue samples will be preserved for future analysis for persistent organic pollutants.
“How do we analyze our samples?”
Sea surface samples are returned to the lab for analysis. Marine life is separated from plastic pollution. The plastic is divided into different size classes, and further separated by type and color. Each of these groups is then counted and weighed. This data is then used to publish descriptive research papers.
Have Trawl- Will Travel
In order to understand if plastic pollution exists in the 5 gyres, we have built 5 trawls to loan to vessels of opportunity. If you’re sailing through one of the 5 gyres, considering borrowing one of our small research trawls to collect scientific samples. Our new “Suitcase Manta Trawl” and “Winged Trawl” include easy protocols, which can be used by anyone to get valuable data. The objectives and methods are simple:
Step 1. We send you a trawl with easy instructions
Step 2. You sail, collect samples and dry them out according to our protocols
Step 3. You mail the trawl to the next sailor somewhere in the world
Step 4. We process the samples and import data to 5gyres.org
The Suitcase Manta Trawl
The Suitcase Manta Trawl has a 60cm wide mouth that dips 25cm into the sea surface. Tow it behind your vessel for a few miles at 2-3 knots. The removable sock at the end of the net captures what we’re looking for. For shipping, the wings are removed, and the entire trawl is packaged in a medium-size suitcase.
The Winged Trawl
The Winged Trawl has a 40cm wide mouth that dips 25cm into the sea surface. The procedures are all the same. This trawl is easier to transport and store on a sailboat. It can be deployed from the side or rear of the boat, as long as it remains outside of the boat’s wake. Contact us for more information about our protocols and loan program.