Sunday, May 20, 2012

Studying Sargassum and Plastic off the North Carolina Coast

Sargassum, a free-floating brown algae found in the North Atlantic, acts like a dust mop as it collects plastics that float in the open ocean.  Such plastic can have a negative impact on marine life that depend upon the Sargassum.  I grew interested in this the first surface sample we pulled onto the RV Atlantic Explorer in 2009. The collection devise was not only full of Sargassum and plastic, but it also contained an abundance of marine life - an ecosystem of species that live in the seaweed like crabs, seahorses, historia-historia fish, shrimp, barnacles, and an array of pelagic fish that are attracted to it.  From that moment on I have been wanting to take a research team, sampling kits, video and camera equipment off the coast of North Carolina and get into a weed line.   It has been four years and next week, the study commences.  With videographer Jason Andre, boat captain Abram Lambertson, and two marine biology students, we will be pursuing a weed line much like what you see in this picture.  The other beautiful part about this research is the potential of filming marine mammals that are attracted to it as well.
preparing the sampling device in Fiji
We will be working our way up the coast from Wilmington to Beaufort then head out to sea approximately 50 miles in search of water temperature changes that create convergence zones and form the weed lines of Sargassum.  We will then record the plastic debris we find in the algae as well as the marine life that is associated with the weed line and possibly record interaction between marine life and plastic.

This cruise is the first of a series of four that we hope to complete this summer.  We are looking for people who want to volunteer their boat time. We will fund the fuel.  This research is the first of its kind specifically studying plastic, Sargassum, and the marine life it harbors which attracts juvenile sea turtles, sport fish, dolphins, and other marine mammals that maybe either ingesting or getting entangled in the plastic contaminants.  If interested in helping in anyway, please contact

1 comment:

  1. Hi! Just thinking about you all out there on the Independence Day. Hope that everything is going according to plan and look forward to hearing about your exploration on return.
    Best for now,