When I first began blogging about our sailing adventure, I mentioned that we had partnered with adventurescience.org in connecting with scientists who had a need for field research in various parts of the globe. By the time we got on the water, the cetaceans and seagull studies had drawn to a close, so we were introduced to another research need: Microplastics. Specifically, the microplastics that are found in our fresh and salt water supplies. We all have seen the Macroplastics which float up on the beach and are seen with the naked eye, but this sampling would search for the smallest of plastic fibers which maybe altering the marine ecosystem at a more hidden level. Of course I was aboard with this research need, so we pushed off with (10) liter bottles specifically tasked to be filled with water samples and the appropriate accompanying data sheets.
Our learning curve with field research has been rather smooth as we were given detailed instructions on how to collect the water samples, record the site location data: lat/ long, date, time, tide windspeed, etc. Over the course of the past six months we have now filled all ten of our allotted specimens and have recently received the results of of the first six…as well as the findings of the hundreds of samples submitted from around the world. And you would definitely be surprised at the hidden world our eyes can’t see in our fresh and salt water supplies. Here is what Abigail Barrows, the lead research scientist has found: (if you want to know the process of distilling the water to find the plastic, shoot me an email and I’ll send you the specifics)
“To date (2013-3/2015) 94% of the samples collected have contained microplastic. Over 4,000 microplastic fragments have been counted in 231 liters of water. On average, we are finding 15 plastic pieces per liter of water. You can check out the number of plastic at each of your sampling sites on this map.”
Wow! I never would have thought so many samples would be contaminated! So after discussing the findings with the kids… we definitely think twice about the amount of plastics we purchase, use daily and how we can limit them. (Although I am still a believer in the positive merits of plastic products, recycling seems to be the most effective means of curtailing the onslaught of plastic into our water supplies.)
Although our sailing adventure is drawing to a close, we are looking ff to a new research project where we can contribute in our small way to conservation studies and awareness. If you are interested in partnering with them, please signup, they would love to have you on board!