Monday, July 6, 2009

What's with the name?

John Chinuntdet, 2007/Marine Photobank." Photo Credit
I've elected to do my final project for graduate school on the problems with plastics. I lived in the "Poly-Anna" world of plastics, unaware of how much I used nor cared. It made life so much easier and when done with it I could throw it away and considered it gone. That was until I learned through research done by Captain Charles Moore, the way, for much of our trash, is 100s of miles off shore floating in our oceans. Millions of ton of trash are accumulating as it photo degrades by the sun and is broken into bite-size pieces that emulate marine food. Marine life often times eat the smaller fragments or get entangled in the larger pieces and are suffering horrible deaths because of it. Or even worse, some live for years with plastics straps, fishing line or nets tangled around their necks and/or fins which eventually cause infections and possible amputation. The other driving force behind this research stems from my need to know, if fish are eating plastics and I eat fish, am I eating the chemicals found in plastics?

My unshakeable curiosity regarding this phenomena has led to two explorations set for this summer - one into the North Atlantic and the other in the North Pacific. Both locations are in distinct parts of the ocean called gyres. There are five gyres total that consist of strong circulating currents that are becalmed in the center like an eye of a storm. Plastics get there several different ways via intentional dumping, unintentional dumping i.e. lost cargo from cargo ships, but the biggest problem is the trash found on streets gets blown into water ways then washed out to sea. (With 6.7 billion people on this planet, it makes for a lot of trash.) This trash then circulates in the gyre current until it eventually ends up in the center somewhat trapped by the current and accumulates there. I'll be collecting samples of this trash 100s of miles off shore using a manta trawl that skims the ocean and collects surface debris into netting called a codent. For more information about the explorations and the six other major issues with plastics in our oceans check out

As I prepare for these explorations, I’ll be sharing the process and observations.

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