Friday, July 31, 2009

Adventures on the High Seas with SEAPLEX

In search of……treasure, glorious plastic rubbish that is scientific treasure. Aaarrgh!

Seriously though, my BBFF (blogging best friend forever), Miriam G is headed out into the great vastness of the Pacific Ocean and leading her crew aboard the SEAPLEX - Scripps Environmental Accumulation of Plastic Expedition. Their mission… “Seeking the Science of the Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch”.

“From August 2-21, a group of doctoral students and research volunteers from Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego will embark on an expedition aboard the Scripps research vessel New Horizon to explore the problem of plastic in the North Pacific Gyre. The Scripps Environmental Accumulation of Plastic Expedition (SEAPLEX) is the first of its kind and will focus on a suite of critical questions. How much plastic is accumulating, how is it distributed, and how is it affecting ocean life? The researchers hope to provide critical, timely data to policy makers and combine Scripps' long tradition of Pacific exploration with focus on a new and pressing environmental problem.”
[Emphasis mine]
Photo: Scripps Institution of Oceanography research vessel New Horizon off San Diego on May 6, 2009.

Doesn’t this sound like the most exciting research ever? I think so. This type of research is not only interested in whole communities –t he plants, animals, and microbes of the sea – but also the entire ecosystem – marine – and how we humans and our activities influence the marine ecosystem and its communities. Have you ever thought about what happens with all of our plastic trash we discard? What about those plastic bags from the grocery store? There always seems to be bags floating in the air, sailing across the ground…and where does it end? What about plastic containers from water bottles, laundry detergent, juice or other food items? Unlike paper or fiber containers, plastic doesn’t obey the ‘rules of decomposition’. It doesn’t easily break down, so it just sits there – or floats – forever and ever. Okay, not forever, but for a time much longer than we live, and we and discard plastic like running water, so we must begin to think about managing it when we’re done with it.

Photo: NOAA Marine Debris Program

Each day, the crew will post updates and let us all know how the weather is treating them, how the sampling goes, and what they are finding. I love how we are able to follow their progress and get a chance to observe a ‘real-life scientific expedition’ in progress. I’m looking forward to it all.

Join me in following SEAPLEX on its High Seas Adventures!

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Follow their every move and discovery at Twitter: @seaplexscience


BB said...

I used to work on an uninhabited island on the Pacific coast and we found incredible amounts of plastic washed up on the beach. We took a picture once of all that we could collect from a 50 foot stretch of beach and it was an incredible pile that took an hour for three people to complete. We found things like nike shoes, hockey pads, Korean shampoo bottles, Taiwanese bleach bottles, Japanese glass balls, plastic ice chests, and LOTS of fishing buoys. I even found one of Curtis Ebbesmeyer's friendly floatees one year.

Rabiah said...

That's SO cool!! I first heard about the GPGP earlier this year in the New Yorker and it's just amazing that there's such a tangible intersection of the natural world's wind and currents and our man-made remnants. Hope you friend has fun on the expedition!

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