This blog shares the research experiences and findings conducted at University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW faculty and students) in conjunction with Plastic Ocean Project. Earlier posts share open-ocean sampling and adventures in the North and South Atlantic, the South Pacific and the North Pacific Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Outreach and education is the primary purposes to bring global awareness to an issue that has reached a crisis level in the marine environment.
The last student I interviewed while on our N. Atlantic voyage was Kila Pickering. Kila attends Princeton University and is also on the swim team. He's an All American in many ways, check out his bio. Kila and I talked about the types of research preformed this voyage, from the deep-water casts collecting water 4,700 meters deep for Dr. Michael Gonzior, to retrieving the OFP traps and redeploying them for Dr. Maureen Conte, to collecting surface samples collecting Sargassum, biota, and plastics. One thing we agreed on, they all took a lot of time. Sometimes it gets down right boring waiting for the instruments to be released then retrieved again. Kila is pre-med and we concluded that "Science is time and labor intensive like surgery, but it isn't something you want to rush. The consequences could be disastrous." The CTD and OFP instruments weigh thousands of pounds, one wrong move could badly injure someone or at the very least destroy the instrument. It is not much different than the pressure of being a surgeon.
Preparing sediment traps
When asked what he valued most from the experiences, he said above all, nothing compares to hands on experience. This cruise allowed him to experience several types of research, from seeing how carbon cycling is sampled from the CTD casts, seeing the sediment collected from the OFP traps, and getting a look at how plastic is found out in the open ocean. Kila is a mellow guy, not one to get too excited about anything but did share that he was most surprised by the plastics found in the Sargassum where many different species of marine life live. Kila strongly urges students to try to find these types of opportunities that can never be explained in a textbook.
Kila and Angela Tomasini sort plastic from Sargassum